You may be familiar with seeing triggerfish dishes on the menu nowadays, but years ago these were considered nothing but a trash fish. In fact, they were somewhat of a nuisance for fishermen who were trying to catch other, more commercially important, species. Triggerfish were the byproduct, or bycatch, of those fisheries being caught accidentally. So, what could those fishermen do with the bycatch instead of just throwing them back?
Enter the talented chefs of Charleston to come up with creative cuisine from this bycatch! Recently, Executive Chef Russ Moore chatted with us about early days of his time working at Slightly North of Broad (SNOB) when Chef Frank Lee had been running the helm. Sixteen years ago when Russ was just getting started on the line, Chef Lee placed an order of triggerfish for their menu. This was the first time Chef Russ had ever thought of this fish as a seafood option, and the first time he heard of the term “bycatch.” Bycatch? We’re going to eat the accidental stuff? Yes!
With that initial order, Chef Lee opened the door to offering new and unique menu options. Chef Russ and Chef Lee made sure to spend time educating the servers on what triggerfish was so they could inform guests about the clean, sweet taste and firm, white fleshy fish being offered on the menu. Now in 2018, about 10 years after Chef Lee stepped off the line, Chef Russ continues to offer this incredible delicacy at SNOB, though its reputation has changed. Triggerfish is a well-recognized and highly sought-after seafood selection.
Triggerfish, which Chef Russ now likes to dub “the original bycatch”, used to cost only about $7 a pound. Nowadays, depending on the supply and demand, triggerfish can cost up to $20 a pound! Triggerfish is a great example on the importance of teaching guests that it’s okay to be flexible when ordering seafood – there are other incredible selections out there other than salmon or tuna.
This begs the question: what happens when you see those other lesser-known fish species on a menu? Why not give that fish a try? Trust that the chefs are going to offer their best and a Good Catch as well!