We have been privileged to have had the opportunity to host three groups of catering and hospitality students from London South East College. We are extremely proud of the next generation of catering students who look to improve their skillset and gain valuable insight into the source of their ingredients. Loch Duart Farm Visit Guest Blog by London South East College
The sun was shining on all three groups as they made their way to Inverness airport.
We were all greeted by Patrick Evans who was very welcoming and patient with us! He was very passionate about his job and very informative about every stage of the salmon’s development along the way. Patrick also came from a catering background and he totally understands the importance of educating the next generation of catering students.
The welfare of the salmon is of great importance in the company’s ethos which is evident throughout the salmon’s journey. During our visit, we learned that the salmon is derived almost entirely from Scottish stock and the eggs are hatched in the hatchery where they are monitored closely as they swim in freshwater.
Loch Duart’s Process
The students had the opportunity to view the salmon during the “Smolt” stage of the salmon’s life cycle. This is where the salmon (called smolts) leave the hatchery at 1 year old. The smolts are ready for their next stage in their development where they are airlifted by helicopter to the designated sea sites. The use of the helicopter cuts down the stress that the fish might have while being transported by lorry and boat. Here the salmon stay for two years and are looked after by expert staff that conduct visual daily checks. The Loch Duart team also use cameras that check the fish’s swim patterns to analyse fish health.
Our Students waited patiently for the boat to arrive so they can see the salmon on their second stage in the Atlantic where they will mature naturally over the next two years. The salmon are placed in secure pens that are double netted for two years. Their size is monitored where they are fed accordingly to stop overfeeding. The students were interested to hear that Loch Duart uses 60% marine-based feed predominantly sourced from capelin fish, which the salmon naturally eat. This allows the end product to contain more omega 3 than most top salmon brands. Loch Duart also has a swim through system where the salmon are transferred between pens to ensure the fish have a freshwater supply and oxygenated environment. The salmon grow naturally and the pens are not overstocked. This allows the salmon to swim around, against the strong Atlantic currents.
Our skipper, Robert drove the boat out to the pens to view two different sites with breathtaking views. We were lucky the sky was a brilliant light blue colour and the sea an aquamarine colour; it could have been cold and grey! Weather conditions can change instantly when you are out to sea.
Patrick organised a cooking competition between the students where they had to decide on a suitable dish between the groups using Loch Duart’s salmon. The winning menu produced the dish for the whole group to eat. The salmon was mouth-watering and very flavoursome!
The local corner shop is not what the students were used to, as it only stored basic provisions, so they had to use their imagination and creative flair! The groups were also marked with their filleting skills and were given a quiz on Loch Duart. The winning group received a lovely Loch Duart Apron.
The student’s experiences from the trip varied. Some had never flown before and others had to apply for their first-ever passport to make their first-ever trip to Scotland! They were all so excited and they really appreciated it, having the experience of such an amazing 3 days away. The trip has brought memories to last a lifetime, all thanks to Patrick being the perfect host.
As lecturers at a catering college, we teach our students to be conscientious and to buy quality fish wherever possible! We discuss air miles, seasonality and gastronomy. This was all covered on our visit to Loch Duart.
Loch Duart rears 100% sustainable Scottish salmon from hatchery to table, looking after the welfare of the fish and using natural methods to stop the fish lice. Loch Duart do not use growth promoters in their fish food and the company does not use antibiotics on their fish either.
As part of our Scottish trip, we were even taken to see a distillery called Singleton at Glen Ord. It was very interesting to understand how the world-famous Scottish whisky is made and we even came across men in kilts playing the bagpipes in Inverness town centre, which made this visit a true Scottish experience.