AW17 Coastal: Fiona Houston

We met up with talented seafood chef, Fiona Houston, to chat abour our latest AW17 Coastal collection and her secret treasure – seaweed.

October 24th 2017
The Barbour story began back in 1894 in our coastal homeland, South Shields – and we’ve been passionate about the coastline ever since. To celebrate the launch of our new Autumn Winter 17 Coastal collection, we’re rediscovering our heritage and lifelong relationship with the shore.  
After discovering the incredibly-unique and talented seafood chef, Fiona Houston, we met up to discover more about her fantastic business, Mara, and what ignited her passion for seaweed. Here’s what we found out…
Kirsty wears the Barbour Filey Waterproof Jacket.
Can you tell us how your work with seaweed started?
I started working with seaweed because I spend so much time here on the coast. When the tide goes out the seaweed reveals itself, and you’re exposed to this amazing underwater forest that you don’t see at any other time of day.
I became fascinated by all the different species of seaweed and began thinking “Why is nobody using this amazing, natural resource?”. I spent hours on the shore, teaching myself about all the different types of seaweed. How they were used in ancient times, how they were used within traditional menus and why we stopped eating seaweed. It made me think how we could re-introduce seaweed back onto our menus in a way that people could engage with this amazing superfood.
How did you learn how to incorporate seaweed into everyday cooking?
Some friends and I wrote a book called ‘Seaweed and Eat It’ back in 2007, and from that we discovered a number of ways to incorporate seaweed into your daily cooking. We wanted to change how Britain eats, and bring seaweed back onto our menus – and that’s how Mara was born.
Where do you find your seaweed?
We harvest seaweed here in the East Neuk of Fife, Scotland, because the water is cold and nutrient rich. Just like harvesting seasonal vegetables, we’re harvesting seasonal seaweeds!  That’s what’s unique about what we do. We’re harvesting all the different seaweeds in season and they’ve all got slightly different colours, flavours and textures.  
Describe what it is you love most about what you do.
I love being outside. Setting up Mara allowed me to combine my love of nature and the environment with creating something from scratch. What I really love about where I work is this crossover between land and sea. It’s this intertidal area – it’s an amazing ancient place where all life began.
How would you say doing what you do lends itself to a slower pace of life?
Well the interesting thing about seaweed is that you have to work by the rhythms of the tide, therefore you can’t rush anything. You have to wait until the tide goes right out in order to wait for the seaweed to reveal itself. So, it actually sets you on a natural rhythm. It’s by the moon and by the tide, so it makes you think much more about the natural world. The moon and the sea and how it all works together and how it’s a really vital part of our lives.
Talk to us a little bit about what Barbour means to you?
It’s about being able to go out in bad weather and staying warm and dry and cosy. It’s always meant durability and good quality to me. For someone who’s tall, it’s always great to have some clothes that fit perfectly. I love being able to get away from it all and go down to the beach with my dog, where somehow you manage to get some headspace and are able to think, whilst being blown around a bit. It resets you.
Discover more about our AW17 Coastal campaign here, or shop the Women’s collection.