Sep 14, 2019
Josh Niland can make fish scales taste like sugary cereal and fish eyeballs resemble prawn crackers. In his hands, seafood can become Christmas ham, mortadella and caramel slice. He can even turn calamari sperm into something you'd want to eat (no really)! His creative, waste-free approach to using every fin and scale is a response to the typical method of ditching 60 per cent of everything caught from the sea (“How is that 40 per cent of a fish is getting all the credit?”) and his innovative thinking is showcased at his acclaimed Saint Peter restaurant, Fish Butchery shop, and within the pages of his new publication, The Whole Fish Cookbook.
Niland's interest in food started not long after he was diagnosed with cancer at age eight. His mum's chicken pie and the excitement of food media offered comfort after intense chemotherapy treatment – he even pinned pictures of chefs he admired on his bedroom wall. These well-known figures later ended up applauding him when he won Best New Restaurant for Saint Peter at the first national Good Food awards.
Before opening Saint Peter with his wife Julie Niland (“Julie
and I thought about this restaurant for so long – in every
single meal that we ate together"), Josh worked at Est., Glass and
Fish Face and shares the many "hectic stories" of his culinary
education. A crab-eating competition, funnily enough, led him to
being mentored by Fish Face's Steve Hodges, and ultimately inspired
him to open Saint Peter (which landed Niland multiple Best Chef
honours and a World Restaurant Award nomination alongside Massimo
Bottura and Dan Barber).
It's fascinating to talk to Josh about everything from the Starlight Foundation wish he was granted as a kid to all the unending possibilities he sees in every scrap of seafood (from cultivating single-origin bottarga to using fish fat like butter in desserts). Many of these ideas are featured in his book, which René Redzepi calls, "an inspiring read, something to return to again and again", and are compelling even if you don't eat fish. (That said, I'm hoping Josh can be convinced to bring back his self-saucing potato scallop one day.)