Fleur D.R. Sullivan
The Walruss & the Carpenter Ltd. t/a Fleurs Place
My life in Moeraki and my entry into “Women in Seafood” came via a serious commitment to sourcing and serving naturally good food from the region, wherever I have lived. This started from the time a great Aunt squirted the milk from the cow’s teat into my mouth, when I was about five years old, I guess.
I came to be a quota holder, a client of M.A.F. 9790666, a licensed fish receiver, a dealer in fish, with monthly returns (and fined $400 when you make a mistake). The owner of multiple walk-in freezers, chillers, vacuum packers, knives, fish scalers, hoses with complicated nozzles, sawdust, fish smokers, scales large and small, stainless steel and more stainless steel, gumboots and steel caps and a truck. Purely because I had a few beers with a couple of fisherman at the local pub, got invited out on their boats and told to bring lunch “as long as it’s not smoked chicken”. Do they have a toilet was my only concern, as I packed the smoked chicken for lunch. No, there wasn’t a toilet but I was told I was lucky as blokes have to watch the seagulls.
My first trip I found I had good sea legs – this has stood me in good stead as I’ve needed them for the last 17 years or so. On that first trip they suddenly remembered it was raffle night at the pub so we headed for home. They asked me to steer the boat for the Bluff Hills, strange way home, I thought, turned the boat around and headed for Bluff. These guys can move quite fast. Me oblivious to the importance of the propeller when doing a sharpish turn with bits still hanging over the side and the guys with their heads down, using sharp knives and thinking of the meat raffles at the pub. I soon found out there is an area called The Bluff Hills to the right side of the entrance to the Moeraki Harbour. At the fisherman’s wharf I said my thanks and invited them and whanau to dinner. The day came, I’d made a large paella, salads and breads and bought the beer. I waited and waited and then rang the pub, they were all there fortifying themselves for the ordeal.
Watching the fish and the bits that went over board that day was a whole new world for me, I really only needed to save the leftover bits to make a beautiful healthy seafood stock. Now, 17 or so years later there are around 18 staff and $44,000 rates a year to pay in this small village (population around 60 permanent residents). Business operators often are curious about how I have accomplished this world renowned restaurant, hard to find, tucked in and out of the way with no signage.
Fresh food sustainably produced. Our fish – mainly from the Moeraki boats, still wriggling when I get it in the tubs. Shell fish in abundance harvested in Otago and Southland. I expect all our food to be treated with respect, cooked quickly, simply and served as naturally good food.
Nau mai, haere mai.
P.S. I know I am world famous in Beijing, population 22 million. Me, Valerie Adams and the Major of Auckland. I hear this from around the 10% of this city that has been here to visit and have their photo taken with me.
By Donna Wells
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