EAST LANSING, MICH — The inaugural Michigan Seafood Summit was standing room only with more than 100 people in attendance March 12 at the Kellogg Conference Center. The morning sessions were geared toward practitioners and fishery professionals and provided an insider look at aquaculture, commercial fishing and fish processing. The afternoon sessions provided a more consumer-focused take on fisheries, covering the promotion, history and future of food fish in Michigan.
“The First Annual Michigan Seafood Summit far exceeded our expectations,” said event organizer and Michigan Sea Grant Director Jim Diana. “More people attended than we had anticipated, which was great and also really underscored the need for something like this. Overall, people said they got a lot out of it — and the food was just spectacular. We look forward to next year.”
Peter Payette, with Interlochen Public Radio, delivered the keynote speech. Payette spoke about three consecutive periods of fish management in Michigan, starting in 1873, running through the 1960s and then moved on to today’s fishery outlook. Just as in the historical periods he outlined, Payette said we’re changing the way we think about food fish in Michigan right now.
“What we’re seeing, the local food movement, I think is similar to the “Back to Nature” movement of the 1950s,” he said. He went on to discuss how people now are very concerned with where their food is coming from, how it’s raised and how it’s caught. Payette showed a picture of Good Morning America’s announcement of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as the Most Beautiful Place in America contest winner. The image showed celebrity chef Mario Batali; Payette noted that they did not show some of the more iconic shots of the region, but had a chef host the segment, showcasing the food and wine found in the region.
The Michigan seafood feast that capped off the event also highlighted a growing connection to local foods and the chefs who cook with them. Five chefs from around the state prepared a wide range of hors d’oeuvres and entrees to showcase Michigan seafood — from farm-raised shrimp and trout, to wild-caught lake whitefish.
Chefs included: Jenna Arcidiacono of Amore Trattoria Italiana in Comstock Park, Bradford Curlee of the Kellogg Center in East Lansing, Mathew Green of Reserve Wine & Food in Grand Rapids, Matthew Millar of The Southerner in Saugatuck, and Michael Trombley of The Henry Ford in Dearborn.
Sponsors included Superior Foods, Aqua Growers, EdibleWOW, the Fish Monger’s Wife, Fortune Fish & Gourmet, Harrietta Trout Farm, Indian Brook Trout Farm, Michigan Fish Producer’s Association, Mackinac Straights Fish Company, New Holland Brewing, Pentair Aquatic Eco-Systems and Seafood Analytics, LLC.