Smokin’ in the Boys Room

I found out that GPS in French actually stands for Global Croissant System (The “C” is not only silent, but invisible and replaced with a “P”). This is because, after days of driving around the farmlands of France and getting lost for most of the time, the only way to find out where I was and where to go was to stop at a local pâtisserie, purchase a croissant, and get directions in a language that I thought I was fluent in. I realized that not only was I not fluent, but I was more semi-solid or even gelatinous in French, especially after using the French GPS many times over.


Feeding time

Monsieur Emanuel Coupin welcomed me to the Piscicultutre de Villette and gave me a step by step account of his facility. His background is in biochemistry and biology. He spent the early part of his career as an engineer in the field of wastewater treatment, specifically in the denitrification of water. (Incidentally, denitrification and the nitrogen cycle are paramount to creating a healthy aquponic ecosystem.) “Then I started a new life : fish farmer, fish-smoker. I was 29.”

Coupin and his wife keep their overhead costs low enough by employing just over half a dozen employees in order for the farm profitable yet not too overwhelming. In addition, he diversifies his operation in order to achieve multiple revenue streams.

Firstly, the water he uses comes from a freshwater stream and uses no chemicals. He considered this a better option than “organic”, as organic producers are allowed to use some chemicals.


Staff collecting fish for a few revenue streams. Pun highly intended.

The trout grown in the farm are prepared and sold on the premises in a variety of ways. They are shipped to various retail stores, sold in Emmanuel’s shop and most interestingly, set into small ponds on the farm for leisurely locals to practice their fishing techniques. These customers pay for a number of fish to (hopefully) catch and to then take them home to their families to eat and show off their hunting prowess.


Smokin time..

Rainbow trout are actually fish that are native to the Americas but are widely used in Europe because of their hardiness and large meat yield compared to some other fish.


He and his staff painstakingly monitor an extremely classic brick smoking oven that is very susceptible to environmental change…

As I was observing Coupin and his team, it occurred to me that they could use timed modern ovens but choose to use this classic method that has worked for decades. Swings in outdoor temperature and humidity have a great effect on how long smoking takes place.


It’s What’s Inside That Counts.

During this process, we constantly checked the fish for the outside to look well, more smokey, and for the inside to develop a yellowish hue.

At the end of my day on the farm, I thought about my classroom, “Where are we going to get a smoker?” (While I discourage kids from smoking; this is an important question.)




Emmanuel has many talents, not least of which is customer service.


Reeking of smoke and covered in croissant droppings by the end…succès finalement…


4 thoughts on “Smokin’ in the Boys Room

  1. Mike, I’m doing some hydroponics this semester in my class. I’d love to treat you to a beer after an MfA workshop one night and find out more about your trip. It sounds awesome.


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