Chef Silla Bjerrum is co-founder of London-based sushi group Feng Sushi, which this month celebrates its 10-year anniversary. She spoke to Kerstin Kühn about the company’s history and its commitment to sustainable fish.
Caterer How did Feng Sushi first start?
Silla Bjerrum Jeremy Rose and I founded Feng Sushi in 1999 with our original site in Fulham and we started as one of the first sushi companies in the capital. The main ethos was to provide a sushi delivery service, nobody else was doing that at the time, to the same quality and standard as the eat-in and takeaway offer.
Caterer How has the business changed over the past 10 years?
SB We have grown to six sites, employ 150 staff and have annual turnover of £5m. While 10 years ago our only competition was Yo! Sushi, there are now many other operators such as Wasabi, Itsu and the more upmarket Nobu and Zuma. The market really has grown dramatically but I see this as a good thing as the quality has improved across the board.
Caterer When did you start to focus on sustainability?
SB I have been working on the business becoming more sustainable for the past eight years. You have to do it one fish at a time. We started with salmon, moving on to tuna, crab and mackerel. Our menu is 93% sustainable but by September, I want it to be 100% sustainable. I’m looking for sustainable sources of tiger prawns and eel but if I can’t find appropriate suppliers, I will take them off the menu.
Caterer What are the least and most sustainable species of fish?
SB Bluefin tuna is an absolute no go as it’s on the verge of extinction. There are issues surrounding certain supplies of cod, tiger prawns and eel. Fishing methods are also very important; line-caught fish is more sustainable as there is no by-catch and intensively farmed fish should also be avoided. We use yellowfin tuna from the Maldives, salmon from Loch Duart and mackerel from the South Coast, which is line-caught when in season. There’s plenty of crab, crayfish and cuttlefish, which is a great alternative to squid.
Caterer The End of the Line documentary draws attention to the effects of over-fishing. How much impact can such a film have?
SB I think it’s a great film and it’s really getting the message out there. So many restaurateurs have already pledged their support and started to review their fish supplies and it’s the first step in the right direction. The problem is that it’s a minefield and the more you get into it the more complicated it gets. Sustainability doesn’t happen overnight but it will happen.
Caterer What’s next for Feng Sushi?
SB We are currently looking to improve our recycling methods and apply sustainable materials across the board. We want to expand and are looking for sites in Spitalfields, Islington and Chiswick. We’re hoping to have 20 outlets within the M25 in the next 10 years and want to expand nationally and internationally.