World-renowned chef Eric Pateman cooks up a statement on seal in Twillingate

Harvest is ‘ethical’, he says

Published on May 25, 2017

Chef Eric Pateman was in Twillingate recently to learn more about the seal hunt and treat some locals to his culinary skills.

©Jim Hildebrand/Special to the Pilot

TWILLINGATE, NL - Eric Pateman can be described as a culinary ambassador of Canadian cuisine.  

Along with his daily business responsibilities, Pateman travels the country and the world, espousing the delights of sustainable, local Canadian ingredients and their role in the country’s culture.

In showcasing Canadian products, and with a mind to the celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, the executive chef and president of the Edible Canada Bistro, decided to add seal meat to his restaurant’s menu for Canada’s largest food festival, Dine Out Vancouver, in February. This wasn’t done haphazardly. 

“I did a lot of research,” Pateman explained during a recent visit to Twillingate.

“I learned about the sustainability of the product and scrutinized the ethical concerns about the seal hunt. To summarize, I didn’t find it a problem. In fact, the harvesting of seal meat, in my opinion, is certainly more ethical than most of our factory farmed foods.

“I spent about six months experimenting and testing of different seal dishes,” he added.

“I created seal liver pate, tacos, curry, sushi, tourtiere, and tartare but to name a few. In all, I created about 20 different dishes before deciding on a pasta with seal Bolognese as well as a seal loin appetizer for the menu.”  

The addition of seal to the restaurant’s fare wasn’t done without risk. 

“There is a lot of propaganda about seal, and we knew that there would be controversy,” he told the Pilot.

“We prepared for it and were somewhat surprised that the in-person protests outside the restaurant were less than we expected, whereas the deluge of online attacks to our business exceeded our expectation. 

“In the restaurant, we were incredibly pleased with the positive response from our guests. About 60-70 per cent of our customers sampled our seal dishes, and we ran out of our initial supply in four days.”

He had estimated the supply would last the full two weeks of the festival.

Pateman’s ongoing interest in culinary culture brought him to Twillingate, where he took part in a seal hunt. 

“I have learned about the ethics of the seal harvest, but I have decided if I am going to talk the talk, I’m going to walk the walk,” he said. 

It was his first visit to the island and gave him a chance to get into the homes and kitchens of Newfoundlanders to experience and learn about the history of local foods. 

He was joined by Dion Dakins, CEO of Carino Co. Ltd. in Dildo, producers of packed and frozen seal meat, Kelly Cox, creator and host of PBS’s “Original Fare” and Irish filmographer Shane Doyle to shoot a documentary of Pateman’s journey. 

Twillingate Lion Bob Stockley served up the appetizers.
Jim Hildebrand/Special to the Pilot

Dakins contributed a supply of seal flippers to the local Lions Club, which in turn hosted a flipper dinner for the community, complete with gravy, potato, turnip, carrots, peas, pease pudding, baked pudding, and a desert of partridgeberry/blueberry pudding and sauce.

Pateman also treated the crowded room to one of his appetizers. 

Pateman travelled the island for a few days meeting people in different communities before heading to Toronto for a panel discussion with some of Canada’s leading chefs called “Seal: Too Cute to Eat?”. 

He will be providing his peers with tastings of some of his seal creations and will also lead the forum in a dialogue about the challenges and benefits of the unique and sustainable product.

Story by Jim Hildebrand
Special to the Pilot