Nfld. & Labrador·Point of View

Kenny Sharpe's In: This is how you pull off 300 seal flipper dinners

From the basement of Wesley Street United Church in St. John’s, an aroma of peppery-cooking seal meat lures guests in off of Patrick Street.

The recipe's a mystery, but there’s no secret about the volunteer sweat going into the annual event

From the basement of Wesley United Church in St. John's, the aroma of peppery-cooking seal meat lures guests from Patrick Street.

The annual seal-flipper dinner is underway. Putting flippers in 300 mouths has all been organized, cooked and prepared by a crew of volunteers.

Kenny Sharpe's In: preparing a seal flipper dinner for 300 timelapse

7 years ago
Duration 0:40
An army of volunteers puts together seal flipper dinner for 300

With the dinner stretching over two spring nights, there's a good chance this is the largest serving of prepared seal meat happening, at this time, anywhere in the world.

I watch closely, and tune in to the conversation, as the seal flippers are served up and dished out from the church hall kitchen.

PETA didn't buy any flippers

"I doubt anyone from PETA [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals] bought a ticket." one of the guests is overheard joking.

One plate is brought back to the serving counter.
One of about a dozen roasters filled with cooked seal flippers.

"This man wants gravy on his buns," said one of the volunteer waitresses.

"I'll give him gravy on his buns alright," said another woman working the seal flipper assembly line.

While the recipe that keeps 300 mouths coming back year-after-year to to this annual event remains a secret, what isn't secret is how much volunteer time is needed to pull this dinner off, and how the church welcomes the revenue that this event generates.

Funding from flippers vital for Church

Three hundred seal flipper dinners at $20 a plate equals more than $6,000 that will help the Wesley United Church Fall Fair Committee with other events in the months ahead.

Kenny Sharpe's In: eating seal flipper dinner timelapse

7 years ago
Duration 0:27
300 people sit down for Wesley United Church's spring seal flipper dinner fundraiser

While reading this on your laptop or mobile, try and smell the peppery-ness of the cooking seal, or taste the Atlantic ocean soaked, beef-like flavour of the meat, all of which is being prepared and plated from a kitchen that's close on 40°C.

"If you can't handle the heat, then get out of the kitchen," said one of the cooks.

In St. John's, this is what it takes to pull off the ultimate urban seal flipper dinner club.

Wesley United Church sits at the corner of Patrick Street and Hamilton Avenue in St. John's.
A table is filled with guests, many of whom have waited all year for this seal flipper dinner.
A doll sits on the kitchen shelf, a pin in its dress reads 'Volunteers are Special.'

Kenny Sharpe's In: A new series

This has been the third instalment of Kenny Sharpe's In: a series that aims to take you inside places you don't often see. If you have a place, event or topic that you think Kenny Sharpe should explore you can email him or follow him on Twitter.


Kenny Sharpe


Kenny Sharpe is currently reporting in Europe as part of the 2022 Arthur F. Burns Fellowship for Foreign Correspondents. Originally from Newfoundland and Labrador, he reports on daily news with a focus on the environment, mental health and politics.