Finding beauty in the beast: Asian carp

Finding beauty in the beast: Asian carp
Finding beauty in the beast: Asian carp

Finding beauty in the beast: Asian carp

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I hate Asian carp stories. They’re an “invasive species”, they say. They show photos of the biggest and ugliest, or videos of them jumping out of the water nearly beaning passing boaters.

But we know one culture’s “invasive species” is another’s dinner, and a lot of fish are big and ugly. The flying fish thing? OK that’s something else.

What’s also something else are the stunning Asian carp dishes created by chef Phillip Foss.

This week the Illinois Department of Natural Resources announced they’re adding Asian carp to their “Target Hunger Now!” program, which “works with sportsmen and meat processors to provide donated venison–and with commercial fishermen and processors to provide donated fish–funneling this ‘bounty of the outdoors’ through the Illinois food bank network to put healthy meals on the tables of struggling Illinois families.”

Phillip created a series of beautiful Asian carp dishes last year. At first as a response to a challenge by his fishmonger at Supreme Lobster and Seafood Company, Carl Galvan. In fact, Carl challenged 10 of Chicago’s best chefs to create dishes using Asian carp. The Chicago Reader’s Mike Sula covered the story in his signature prize-winning style.

Phillip is now better known as the chef and owner of The Meatyballs Mobile, one of Chicago’s few chef-driven (yes, literally, ha ha) food trucks, but also his new micro restaurant, EL, which seats from one to 10 diners per night.

I’ll see Phillip again this Saturday at the Twentieth Anniversary Green Tie Ball, where he’ll be battling Iron Chef style, again thanks to Carl, where I’m one of the judges.

Next week the IDNR will host an Asian carp cooking demo and dinner event. The chef, Philippe Parola, will actually come up from Baton Rouge, where he’s been promoting the fish under the name Silverfin. You probably know Chilean Sea Bass was once called the Patagonian toothfish, and now has been eaten to the point of unsustainability. Chef Phillipe actually has not only a proprietary method for boning the fish, but also a whole line of breaded, frozen, boxed fish.

No word yet in what form the Asian carp will be donated to Illinois families. Hopefully here they’ll find some inspiration from one chef who found beauty in the beast.