What We Get Wrong About Canned Seafood, According To Sara Hauman - Exclusive

It's often said that the best things come in small packages and that is sure to be the case with Tiny Fish, the in-the-works sustainable canned seafood line courtesy of "Top Chef: Portland" contestant Sara Hauman. According to Hauman, the project was a long time coming. "I've always been so strangely intrigued with products on the shelves at grocery stores, because ultimately, what's in that can, or that jar that was growing in the earth at one point," she told Mashed during an exclusive interview. "And to have that transformation of a fish that someone caught with a pole, and now it's on the shelf of a store is a really, really interesting and cool story that I am hoping that I can tell with my tinned fish line."

With Tiny Fish, Hauman hopes to change consumers' perceptions of the possibilities of canned seafood. "I think a lot of it is mass-produced and when it's mass-produced, you're not necessarily thinking about flavor, you're thinking about how can we cost-effectively create a lot of products in a very short amount of time," she said. "My products are going to have a bit of a higher price point, but I think my main goal is to have someone open the can and think that maybe that could be served at a restaurant because of the way that canned items have to be processed so that they are safe to consume, you have to cook them at a really high temperature and really high pressure."

Hauman also plans to tinker with the familiar, aggressively salty flavor profile that tends to dominate canned seafood. "There is a way to use citric acid or vinegar to balance out the salt," she explained. "[S]ometimes I eat tinned fish and it's such a salty salt bomb. So it's practicing the balance that I use in creating a dish and transferring that into a can."

Why Sara Hauman is avoiding tuna

Suffice to say, with Tiny Fish, you won't be getting your run-of-the-mill canned tuna, salmon, or oysters. In fact don't expect any tuna, salmon, and oysters at all. "We've got plenty of that on the shelves," Hauman said. "I want to focus on the more sustainable varieties of fish, the lesser-used varieties of fish."

Specifically, Hauman, who is currently based in Portland, wants to focus on abundant fish and shellfish from the Pacific Northwest. For her first canned release, she plans to combine mussels with a Spanish-style sauce. "I want it to be something that's really easy and delicious, you can eat it over a bowl of rice," she said. "You can use a little baguette as a napkin, so you don't get grease all over your shirt. It's great camping food too, which I think is really huge in the Pacific Northwest to be able to just have something that's really easy to grab, does not need refrigeration, a hell of a time for an animal to try to get into."

Future products will highlight other shellfish and fish which aren't usually found in a can. "So we're talking rockfish, that's very abundant on the Pacific coast here, and it's just really not used," she said. "You don't see that out on the shelves, but it is still a great source of all the proteins and fatty acids that salmon is and it's just a lot more sustainable."

In other words, Tiny Fish will be a tried and true Portland brand. "I've got to keep it weird," Hauman asserted. "That's part of my brand, right?"

Tiny Fish is slated to debut this winter. For updates on her canned fish line, subscribe to Sara Hauman's Instagram.