Fishmonger and Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF), Arnaud Vanhamme is the patron of the 2023 La Grande Débarque. The autumn event celebrates the return of the scallop, an emblem of Normandy, all over France! 

What does being a fishmonger involve? 

Fishmongers get fresh deliveries (fish, shellfish, seafood) every morning that they get the best out of or prepare for sale at their market stalls or shops. Realistically, that means getting up as early as 2 or 3 in the morning to visit the wholesale market (Rungis for professionals in Paris) and try to pick up the best pieces. It’s best to wear warm clothes, have a full stomach and a good night’s sleep! You have to be able to advise your customers, whether you’re in a local market or upmarket fishmongers selling to restaurateurs or private chefs… I have experience in both these settings and love them equally! 

What do scallops mean to fishmongers?

Scallops are a key seasonal product for fishmongers. It marks the beginning of a new time of year with shellfish and oysters. It provides us professionals with a real boost to footfall and profits: it’s a celebratory product that consumers love and it attracts customers. Scallops have a luxury feel but they are still affordable and easy to cook with. They can be used in all kinds of different recipes: flambéed in calvados Normandy-style or just oven-baked with cheese on top.  

Does it matter to your customers that your produce comes from Normandy?

Yes, especially scallops. Normandy is the biggest French fishing area and everyone knows that! It being of Normandy origin is even more important because the scallop bed is outstanding in Normandy, in terms of both quality and management. Normandy fishermen have found a smart way to manage this wild resource. They adhere to authorisations, fishing areas and shellfish sizes. They understand that you can’t just plunder the sea, you have to manage it. That means that Normandy scallops still have a bright future and consumers can enjoy them with peace of mind. It’s essential to our generation of fishmongers as we’re currently dealing with countless products becoming harder and harder to come by because of overfishing, pollution and overconsumption. 

The Normandy scallop label

The Normandy scallop red label has recognised the quality of this fresh, whole product from Normandy since 2002. It has become the first wild and unprocessed product to be awarded the red label based on strict specifications.

 

  • The scallop must be under 24 hrs.
  • It must be put in a crate so as not to crush, break or chip it.
  • It is stored flat so it doesn’t lose its water.
  • It is cleaned and any slipper snails are removed on the boat so it is clean and presentable.
  • It is traceable too.

What is your role as patron of the 2023 La Grande Débarque? 

La Grande Débarque is the event that heralds the Normandy scallop’s return to the fish market. It’s a celebration, similar to the release of Beaujolais Nouveau in the wine world. As a patron, I’m here to talk about this fantastic French produce that we can have on display within 24 hours and sell live scallops to our customers. It’s also a golden opportunity to champion what’s so special about the species, the king scallop or Pecten maximus, that lives on our shores with Normandy accounting for 90%. Customers should know the difference between our scallops and imported ones, usually from North or South America, which are bay scallops belonging to other shellfish families.  


Background

Arnaud Vanhamme, an extraordinary MOF

The Vanhamme family’s passion for the sea and seafood runs through their veins. “I’m a 4th generation fishmonger with my great-grandmother starting the family business back in the

1920s ”, says Arnaud, who didn’t follow in his family’s footsteps immediately. He started out studying economics, got his Master’s degree then took over the mobile fishmongers from his father and uncle. Prepping, filleting, craftsmanship: he learnt it all from the people he would watch closely at Rungis market as a boy. After 22 years trading on the markets in Seine Saint-Denis, the fishmonger became fixated on one thing: “to hone my skills and achieve perfection.” And that’s exactly what he did: he was named Meilleur Ouvrier de France in 2011 and opened two fishmongers in the 16th arrondissement in Paris. “Great recognition for a job well done,” he reminisces. 

Arnaud Vanhamme - Cr - NFM

His Scandi-style scallop recipe

  • 3-4 scallops (depending on their size) and one rasher of bacon per person 
  • Little gem lettuce 
  • Crème fraîche 
  • Savora mustard 
  • Dill, lemon, salt, pepper 

Layer scallops and bacon on a skewer. 

Make a sauce using 5g of crème fraîche, 3 tsp of Savora, chopped dill, a drizzle of lemon juice, salt and pepper. 

Pan-fry for up to 1.5 min on both sides on the barbecue, brasero or in a pan with a knob of butter or drizzle of olive oil. 

Place on a lettuce gem leaf, remove the skewer and wrap. 

Serve the mini scallop hot dog with a spoonful of sauce. 

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