JOHN "JP" PEERY
I am not a chef or a fishmonger or a restaurant owner. I have a full-time job in an unrelated field. I cook regular food for my regular family, just like most of you. I am self-taught, but most of my friends consider me an authority on cooking anything from the water. I am a confident home cook and I am never afraid to take a shot at making anything I find that seems interesting. I have developed a broad range of skills through research, the guidance of better cooks, and good ol’ fashioned trial and error. With Seafood Sherpa, I have broken these skills out into quick, easy lessons that anyone can do. You can cook just about anything that you see on TV, in restaurants, or the internet. You may just need a little guidance. I hope that I can help novices build these basic skills and develop confidence cooking all manner of seafood. I hope that the information I provide leads to better eating, better stewardship of our marine resources, and more people adding underutilized species of fish to their meals.
If I had been asked 20 years ago, to make a list of the most likely things that I would do with my life, writing a seafood blog would most certainly not have been on it. At age 18, I refused to eat any shellfish, and the only fish that I would eat were rainbow trout, bass, and crappie. I would only eat those if I caught them myself and only right beside the lake or stream. I grew up watching my father eat sardines and anchovies and all manner of discount fish from our local supermarket. Every fish he ate was oily and smelly and fishy and I assumed that was all the ocean had to offer.
Two things helped to save me from my misconceptions about seafood. The first was meeting my wife Vanessa. She is an adventurous eater who loves all types of fish from sushi to fried catfish and she helped introduce me to a wide variety of foods that have since become some of my favorites. A major driver of her love of seafood is the Italian tradition, La Festa di Sette Pesci or Feast of Seven Fishes. As a child, she kept the feast with her grandparents and she remembers it as a celebration that filled the house with warmth and joy. It is among her fondest childhood memories. Though I never met her grandparents, I understand we had a lot in common, and Vanessa and I have since revived the tradition. We hold our own version of the feast every December. We don’t observe the traditions strictly. The menu can include anything that comes out of the water. We don’t go to midnight Mass after. It isn’t even on Christmas eve. None of that matters. What matters is that we capture all of the joy and love that she remembers and we share 7 of our favorite recipes from the past year with about 25 of our closest friends.
The second thing that brought me around to loving seafood was a career move that landed me in Louisiana. You can’t live along the gulf coast without getting comfortable with seafood, and they like it in its most natural form. Shrimp might be served head on and covered in spicy sauce, softshell crabs might be served whole with their legs hanging out the side of a po’boy, and oysters might come to you fresh from the sea and raw. The whole culture revolves around seafood and nowhere is it more pronounced than right there in New Orleans. I tested the water with the relatively safe gulf shrimp, and then moved on to some more adventurous items. I tried the crabs, the crawfish, and the flounders, and then I found redfish. Redfish are relatively unknown outside of the gulf region and you can’t buy them in most parts of the country, but there isn’t a better fish anywhere. Once I tried redfish, I knew that I’d been missing out on a whole world of fantastic cuisine. I started trying everything I could get my hands on and now, if I see a fish I don’t recognize, I buy it every time.
I know that seafood can be intimidating to purchase, to prepare or even just to sample. I know that many people believe that they don’t like it, but to rule out such a large segment of the menu is to miss out on many of the most interesting and delicious foods on earth. There is something in the ocean for everyone, if you can approach it with an open mind. With Seafood Sherpa, I hope to make this daunting category a little more accessible. I hope that I can guide the reader around the common pitfalls from the perspective of someone who once refused to eat any of it. The approach is to go from basic concepts that anyone can master and build on these concepts to develop more advanced techniques. The tutorials and recipes are written for the novice to intermediate cook, and while experienced cooks may choose to skip some of the more basic sections, I believe everyone will find something of value.
Freshness is the most important factor
It is not as difficult as you think it is
When in doubt try several things at once
Failure is acceptable as long as you try again
I'm Grace, the behind-the-scenes designer, photographer, and overall right-hand man here at Seafood Sherpa. JP's lovely wife is actually my older sister, so we're all family here. I'm a Nashville native who's been flying out to Cali every summer for 5 years now, so I've gotten to experience a plethora of new fish, thanks to that guy. (I've also taken glamor shots of him with his beard and chest hair shaved into the shape of Batman, so our boundaries are pretty non-existent.)
I'm a student at Middle Tennessee State University, majoring in graphic design. I've also got a passion for photography, which manifests itself in the form of a side business, which allows me to take family photos every spring and fall. I love peanut mnms, soul music, nail polish, and paper crafting. When I'm not consumed by work or a school art project, you can find me watching vlogs on Youtube, flipping omelettes, or headswapping people in Photoshop.
Seafood Sherpa has been a great outlet for me to showcase my design work and photography. I'm excited to be a part of this journey!