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Why don’t fish from the sea taste salty?

Why don’t fish from the sea taste salty?

Things you learn on the road

There are many things you learn working in the luxury travel industry. You meet an eclectic mix of people. You experience once in a lifetime destinations. And you work with some of the most talented individuals on the planet. What you learn from them normally stays with you forever. And this is no exception.

a conversation with a Latvian Chef

“Why do fish from the sea not taste salty?”
Said my giant Eastern European friend
“I will tell you”
He said patting my back, as we walked down a street in Ogre, Latvia, although I never remember actually asking him this question.

At the time I was working with two Latvian chef’s, both of whom became good friends. The younger of the two was a ‘big’ character, standing over 6”6 tall. He had the physique of a rower (which was something he’d often tell you he good at!).

He was a excellent and progressive chef on a mission to gain his first Michelin Star. Cheffing has been a way out of a and he was utterly dedicated to his success.

“Why do fish from the sea not taste salty?”
I asked myself as we continued our walk. It seemed like such an illogical question, the kind a child would ask a time-poor parent. But I stumbled to find an answer for a question that seemed so elementary to my adult self.

My giant chef friend, who was 10 years my junior, and very much enjoying my struggle, eventually shared his knowledgeable response.

The Science Bit

Both saltwater fish and freshwater fish drink water (I had never really considered that fish drank at all)  but they somehow have the same salt level in their bodies, in spite of drinking from different environments.

Salt Water fish developed special organs so they could filter the salt from the water. The water moves over membranes in the direction of the higher concentration of salt (osmosis). Freshwater fish are therefore constantly urinating (excuse my french)  to expel the extra water, while saltwater fish drink a lot of water and then excrete the salt through specialized organs on their gills.

In fact one of the biggest energy demands on fish is osmoregulation, which is the control of their salt content. Some fish can even go back and forth between saltwater and freshwater adjusting their systems to their changing saline environment

What's my point?

I asked my giant chef friend why? why? why? he had decided to put me through this Biology 101. He explained it was an element of a National Chef Competition that he had recently entered. My chef friend had chosen to prepare a fish dish and he wanted to be able to comprehensively present everything to do with the meal. He wanted insight and knowledge far beyond what was required.

And that is the essence and reason for my  story.

Many of the greatest chef’s I’ve had the privilege to work with are beyond passionate about what they do. They are consumed by it. My giant chef friend was one of those people. Indeed I have worked with so many professional people within this industry -whether it be drivers, chefs, housekeepers, hospitality managers – and the best of the best are always the most passionate. It’s not a good work ethic. It’s not about showing up everyday on time and ticking a box. It’s about being consumed by something. It’s about being driven by something greater than the job.

I have been working in the ‘hospitality industry’ for over 12 years and I have been lucky enough to work in many different countries, on many different continents. Luxury hospitality is a demanding industry. We who work within it, strive to go above and beyond our clients expectations, every step of the way. Often this means going to great lengths to get things done. It is not 9 – 5. You can’t switch off when you get home. It’s a need, not a must. “I must go to work”. “I need to go to work”. They are vastly different statements. And my need is why I do what I do. Why we all do.

The top tier of the luxury travel industry attracts some of the most talented and dedicated individuals, from many nationalities and walks of life. The luxury industry is always changing and never stagnating as expectations are constantly trying to be exceeded. It’s an ever evolving creature.  “I don’t know” is never an answer, as my giant Latvian chef friend demonstrated.

We must strive to be one step ahead, in our knowledge, indeed, in all areas. That is what it takes to make it in the industry and that is why I come to work every day.

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Andy Ashwin

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