hef Charlotte Langley has spanned a 20-year career in the seafood industry, and has been making waves—pun very much intended—with her Vancouver-based canned seafood company Scout. While fish from a can may not sound like a luxurious indulgence, Scout’s processes are reminiscent of Spanish and Portuguese conservas: seafood preserved in seasoned oils and sauces that are both an Iberian delicacy and a tapas staple.
When it comes to Scout’s iterations of tinned seafood, think wild Albacore tuna sourced from the Pacific Northwest and preserved in garden herb pesto, or organic mussels from Langley’s home turf of Prince Edward Island, seasoned in smoked paprika and tomato fennel sauce. Ingredients are all natural and sourcing is all local; no shady oils and no synthetic binders to be found.
Langley grew up among a hearty fishing community in PEI—surrounded by the goings-on of clam and mussel harvesters bustling about the wharf—but she never thought she would pursue a career in seafood. Then a string of post-culinary-school kitchen jobs stationed at the seafood section snowballed into a career helming the kitchen of elevated ocean eateries like The Whalesbone in Ottawa and C Restaurant in Vancouver.
“You can call me the tin fish girl, the fish lady, whatever,” she says with a laugh from her kitchen in PEI, where she occasionally checks the stove to see if she’s burned the fish she’s cooking. “I never thought that would be my title, but here we are.” While she’s based in Toronto these days, Langley is visiting her hometown to film an episode for a new food series hosted by rapper Maestro Fresh Wes, the godfather of Canadian hip-hop. It’s the sort of gig she’s earned through her status as a celebrity chef and through her extensive knowledge of the seafood industry.
As an advocate for sustainable seafood consumption, Langley has dedicated her career to understanding the nuances and best practices of commercial fishing. “I started working diligently with sourcing directly with fishers or indirectly with aquaculture farmers, and understanding the process, the costing, the pricing, the seasonality, and the nutrition levels,” she explains. “I really want to increase my impact on how people are consuming fish in general.”
Overfishing remains a rampant issue in the industry, and one that she thinks could be solved by diversifying our seafood preferences. With Scout, which was launched non-commercially in 2014 and commercially in 2020, Langley and her team hope to make it easier to buy and use the more intimidating types of seafood—and ease the demand on overfished species like salmon and tuna. Canned claw and knuckle meat from Atlantic Canadian lobster that’s been preserved in butter and cold-pressed sunflower oil is a lot easier to whip up in the kitchen than buying an entire crustacean, after all. Plus, the smaller portions offered in a can help offset food waste.
Scout’s ethos is that you can have your fish and eat it, too. Every species in the product line is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council: the global certification standard for ethically and responsibly sourced wild seafood, and an organization that Langley has been an ambassador for over the last five years. Scout also recently celebrated its official B Corp status, legitimizing its sourcing and supply chain practices.
All of the canning is also done in Canada—an important distinction in an industry where these processes are often outsourced to Asia. It’s a process that Langley herself worked to understand, experiment with, and perfect; after buying a 100-year-old canning machine from a friend, she spent years trying out different ways of preserving fish. “I like to call it the art and craft of canning, because there’s definitely an art to it—you can get very creative with it—but the craft is the hard skill of making it,” she says. “For example, pH levels are very specific. You can’t just throw in whatever you want and it’s going to work out. You have to do a lot of recipe development.”
Perfecting the canning method was a process of much trial and error, but the creativity of combining flavours and different species keeps things interesting. In the spirit of rousing interest in different types of fish, Scout has 12 to 14 new species in the works. “We’re launching a new product line in the fall, so stay tuned,” Langley says. “Or, sorry: stay tuna’d.”