South Korean chefs learn all about Maine lobster

First published in Landings, July, 2013.

Today almost everyone with young children is familiar with South Korean pop star Psy’s musical hit “Gangnam Style.” In a June visit to Maine, four South Korean chefs were excited to learn about lobster “Maine style.” Their visit was the result of a joint effort between Maine Lobster Promotion Council and Calendar Islands Maine Lobster to create an effective educational program for international buyers.

The South Korean chefs went lobstering, visited a processing facility and, of course, enjoyed sampling many Maine lobsters. Here with the chefs, from left to right, are Marianne Lacroix, MLPC, John Jordan and Emily Lane, Calendar Islands Maine Lobster. Photo courtesy of MLPC.

The South Korean chefs went lobstering, visited a processing facility and, of course, enjoyed sampling many Maine lobsters. Here with the chefs, from left to right, are Marianne Lacroix, MLPC, John Jordan and Emily Lane, Calendar Islands Maine Lobster. Photo courtesy of MLPC.

The chefs had a hands-on education in everything lobster, from pulling traps and shucking lobster in a processing plant to preparing lobster with several top Maine chefs. They learned all about what makes Maine lobster great, including our sustainable resource management, our beautiful coastal environment and our handling techniques.

In a cooperative promotional effort, dealers and processors opened their facilities to the chefs to provide a good overview of the industry. The chefs covered most of the coast, hitting Seaview Lobster in Kittery, Ready Lobster in Portland, Shucks Maine Lobster in Richmond, Linda Beans Perfect Maine in Rockland, Vinalhaven Lobster Co-op, Greenhead Lobster in Stonington and Garbo Lobster in Hancock. They even stopped in Augusta to meet Governor LePage.

The companies taking part in this new educational program recognize that South Korea represents a good opportunity for Maine lobster to enter into a new market because of the country’s expanding economy and relatively high per capita seafood consumption (126.5 pounds per year live weight). Lobster from Maine currently accounts for only about 10% of the lobster consumed in South Korea. The goal of this educational program is to increase consumption of Maine lobster by the South Koreans to 30-40% of the total within the next one to two years.

New fans of Maine's famous crustacean. MLPC photo.

New fans of Maine’s famous crustacean. MLPC photo.

The program could not have taken place without the generous sponsorship of many organizations including Calendar Islands Maine Lobster, Maine Lobster Promotion Council, Lobster Research Education Development board, Food Export Northeast, Maine Tourism Association/Maine Restaurant Association, Maine Office of Tourism, East Coast Seafood and Greenhead Lobster.

 

Maine Lobster in the News

The Maine Lobster Promotion Council is running a public relations campaign designed to create positive media coverage for Maine lobster. Most of the effort is targeted to media operating outside of the state. One recent success story involves a web site called Serious Eats.

Serious Eats is a foodie web site with 1.9 million unique monthly visitors and a reputation as a reliable source for information about the food we eat. As a result of the MLPC’s public relations effort, the site ran a four-part series on Maine lobster. The highlight of the series was a hard-shell lobster versus soft-shell taste test. As suspected, soft-shell was the favorite with a special recognition of its superior flavor, texture and ease of use. We knew that the taste test had made an impact when people were heard discussing the merits of hard-shell versus soft-shell lobster at a James Beard Foundation event in New York City just after the taste test was published.

One challenging part of the Serious Eat campaign was finding and shipping soft-shell lobsters from Maine to New York City at the end of May. Jess’ Market in Rockland came through with impressive handling and packing, so that their soft-shell lobsters arrived in New York City alive and in great condition. The big box of beautiful soft as well as hard-shell Maine lobsters created excitement even among the seasoned food professionals at Serious Eats. Thank you to Jess’ Market for its role in presenting the best Maine lobster possible.