Written by: Heather Mikesell
When it comes to eating healthily, nutritionists have long recommended fish be a part of a balanced diet. That’s because fish may lower your risk for certain health conditions, such as a heart attack, stroke, and even depression. Loaded with nutrients, fish contains high-quality protein, vitamin D, and a host of other vitamins and minerals. It is also a source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential to growth and development. It’s just one of the reasons Benchmark is teaming up with Verlasso Salmon to offer guests a healthy and sustainable option.
As one of the healthiest foods available, it’s no surprise fish is a key component of the Mediterranean diet, often recommended for those wanting to lower their risk of heart disease and add years to their lives. Made up of lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, legumes, and fish, the Mediterranean diet is inspired by the cuisine of those in Greece, Italy, and other Mediterranean countries.
Unfortunately, in recent years, it has come to light that not all fish is created equal. Due to overfishing and poor environmental conditions, fish isn’t always a healthy choice for ourselves or the planet. One especially worrisome concern is the harmful chemicals found in some fish today, like mercury and PCBs. Such concerns are driving the food industry to create plant-based alternatives, as it did with meat products.
However, most alternatives pale in comparison to what nature provides. The solution lies in choosing more sustainable options, which is exactly what Benchmark Resorts & Hotels is doing – thanks to its new partnership with Verlasso Salmon, a sustainably farmed salmon. Olivier Gaupin, director of culinary operations, for Benchmark, believes the most important considerations in food are the ingredients and from where they originate. “We have an enormous amount of choice in what we eat and buy,” he says. “But, we don’t always make the right choice.”
Fortunately, that is beginning to change, as more people become aware of the impact their food choices have on their health and that of the planet. Gaupin is passionate about making sustainability a hallmark for the culinary program across Benchmark’s international portfolio. “It is important that sustainability become part of the business model for our properties,” he says. “Sustainability means meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to protect our natural environment and the human and ecological system.”
Gaupin first became aware of Verlasso Salmon at a photo shoot and was intrigued enough to start following the company on social media. Liking what he saw, he wanted to know more and began researching the brand and its salmon products. What he found confirmed his initial impression that Verlasso Salmon would be a healthy and sustainable addition to Benchmark’s culinary program.
Verlasso Salmon comes from Chile’s coastal waters and are nourished by the Humboldt currents that flow through them. Rich in diversity, the water is loaded with micro-nutrients and planktons. It benefits from being in a convergence zone in which Alpine mountains, active volcanoes, and glacial melt contribute to the incredibly rich environment. Farmed in Patagonia, the fish benefit from the remote location and pristine surroundings.
Fed Verlasso’s special feed—a mix of plants, algal oil, forage fish trim, and supplements—the salmon are raised to be healthy and delicious. The Verlasso diet ensures a consistent flavor and color for which the fish are known. The salmon features a firm and flakey texture that imparts a buttery taste in the mouth. It can even be enjoyed sashimi-style.
Finding the company’s stance on sustainability in alignment with Benchmark’s own commitment, Gaupin knew it was a good match. “Verlasso has been a leader in sustainable practices for nearly a decade,” he says. “They work closely with the local communities to reduce the environmental impact with proven, innovative, and sustainable farming techniques.”
Because heavy metals are always a concern in the fish we consume, Verlasso developed a steel alloy netting system free of anti-copper foulants. Guests can also rest assured that the fish contain no hormones or preventative antibiotics.
Some may wonder if farmed salmon is as nutritious as wild-caught fish, and the answer is yes, when properly raised. Because the salmon are fed a diet of natural algae, they feature the same omega-3s and healthy fats as wild-caught salmon.
Verlasso Salmon will be debuting on menus in Benchmark Resorts & Hotels properties throughout the country in the coming months. Expect to see some creative culinary options incorporating the salmon from Gaupin and his team. It’s yet another way Benchmark is elevating its cuisine while also ensuring sustainability plays a key role. “Verlasso is on the cutting-edge of harmonious aquaculture and is a truly trusted source for delicious quality salmon for our operation across Benchmark,” says Gaupin. “Our chefs will be pleased and proud to serve such a great product.”