…so, you are a recognized Canadian chef, known to champion causes related to sustainable seafood. …so, you are a father who realizes, without better stewardship of our oceans, fisheries risk complete collapse. …so, you love Canada, you’re an outdoorsman, and you cycle.
Then, you’d be Ned Bell who, as legend has it, was born to the rugged wilds of British Columbia’s beautiful Okanagan Valley. The executive chef of Vancouver’s Yew Restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel left St. John’s, Newfoundland on Canada Day to cycle across Canada this summer. His campaign, which is called Chefs for Oceans, aims to raise awareness for sustainable seafood. He will stop in 20 major cities on his ride from coast-to-coast and donate portions of net funds raised to Ocean Wise, SeaChoice.org, and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS).
Near-term, Bell wants a day officially attributed to the necessity for keeping our oceans, lakes, and rivers healthy, National Sustainable Seafood Day. Within the next 10 years, he wants sustainable seafood to be accessible to every Canadian.
According to the related media release and an infographic by Chefs for Oceans media partner Gusto TV:
- “3/4 of the world’s fish stocks are being harvested faster than they can reproduce. Eighty percent are
already fully exploited or in decline”
- “75% of the world’s fisheries are either fully exploited, [over-exploited] or have collapsed”
- “90% of all large predatory fish have been depleted from the world’s oceans due to over-fishing”
- Some fishing gear types such as bottom dredging can cause the equivalent of clear-cutting a forest several times a year
- “Canada is the 9th largest exporter of fish and seafood products in the world”
A father of two sons, a 15 year-old (Fin) and a 4 year-old (Max), “If things continue as they are, by the time Fin is 40, there won’t be wild sockeye salmon,” explained Bell. “It’s very scary.”
During his 3-month (approximately 8000 km) trek, Bell will also promote local businesses that support retailing and serving sustainable finfish and shellfish. Monday evening, he stopped in Ottawa. Our own Rene Rodriguez, who happens to be Canada’s reigning Top Chef (2014), hosted Bell at his Navarra Restaurant on Murray Street (93). The two celebrity chefs held an event, partnering with Jim Foster’s Pelican Fishery and Grill (1500 Bank Street) and Josh Bishop’s The Whalesbone (Oyster and Fish Supply at 504a Kent Street).
Here is the wine-paired multi-course Bell and Rodriguez served (cost: $79 + taxes and gratuity):
During service, Bell addressed the dining room, explaining “As chefs, we celebrate regions, provinces, and communities, but we don’t always do it on a national level.”
“Chefs have a unique opportunity to raise awareness of sustainable seafood.”
He conceptualized Chefs for Oceans while attending a past Canadian Chefs’ Congress in Halifax.
When Bell yielded the floor to Rodriguez, the Ottawa native said, “Always choose the best ingredients. For seafood look for organic and sustainable.”
Ottawa actually has three Ocean Wise-partnered retail outlets; the third being Jim Wall’s Brian’s Butchery (now Around the Block Butcher at 1117 Cobden Road). We have 21 partnered restaurants (including Navarra) and a partnered food truck, Layne Belcher’s Urban Cowboy.
[Rodriguez and Bell have known one another a decade. “We were a couple of teenagers who did a cooking show,” explained Rodriguez about his meeting Bell while filming an episode of Chris Knight’s original Cook Like a Chef. It aired on the Food Network.]
Bell advocates asking at the fish counter of the grocery store from where their fish comes. “Ask them, ‘what can I purchase that is sustainable?'”
He is particularly proud of his son Max who asked, while traveling with the Four Seasons, “What’s your favourite fish down here that we’re allowed to eat?”
Back home, there is a good deal of misunderstanding regarding Atlantic salmon. Ann-Marie Copping, Ocean Wise Manager of the Vancouver Aquarium, explained, “There is no more wild Atlantic salmon. It’s all farmed.” Accordingly, the Wild Atlantic salmon fishery has been depleted due to habitat loss and overfishing. When it comes to farmed Atlantic salmon, closed-system is better than open net pen farmed.
While the Ocean Wise material being distributed includes a statistic that the global average seafood consumption per person, per year has almost doubled from between 1960 (21 lbs) and 2011 (44 lbs), according to the Statistics Canada, Canadian consumption has decreased steadily between 1988 (8.65 kg or 19 lbs) and 2010 (7.69 kg.or 17 lbs). In 2010, Canadian consumption breaks down to 3.58 kg of fresh and frozen sea fish, 2.20 kg of processed sea fish, 1.58 kg of shellfish, and .33 kg of fresh water fish. This means Chefs For Oceans has a challenge beyond advocating for sustainability. Bell is also encouraging Canadians to eat seafood, be it at home or in restaurants.
Today’s chef is resident in theie restaurants, having a presence both back and front of house, especially in food scenes like Ottawa’s where more often than not restaurants are chef-owned or restaurant-owned but chef-driven. Chefs tend to be personable, socially active, and community driven. The brooding chef who shouts obscenities while skulking around a corner of the kitchen is becoming passé. Bell represents the modern chef and his cause is simple, eat sustainable seafood.
Follow Bell on his journey by clicking on gustotv.com/chefsforoceans. Throughout his trip, he will be wearing a GoPro portable video camera. Ottawa’s Knight plans to compile the content into programming for Gusto TV. Here is an early 30-second promotional spot.
Safe journey, Chef!
93 Murray Street
Tags: Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, featured, Ned Bell, Ocean Wise, SeaChoice