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022312-Chefs with Issues: Making Seafood Sustainability Palatable

February 23rd, 2012

03:30 PM ET

Chefs with Issues: Making Seafood Sustainability Palatable

Chefs with Issues is a platform for chefs and farmers we love, fired up for causes about which they're passionate. Chef John Ash serves on the Board of Advisors of Seafood Watch, an educational initiative for sustainable seafood by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. He recently hosted a panel discussion about seafood sustainability as a practice. Among the participants were Chef Bun Lai, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Sustainability Leader of the Year, and Yousef Ghalaini, executive chef of New York’s sustainable seafood restaurant Imperial No. Nine.

Recently, nearly 30 thought leaders in the seafood, restaurant and sustainability worlds came together to have a conversation about how chefs can embrace seafood sustainability in a greater, more mainstream way.

“Thought for Food: A Discussion on Sustainable Seafood” was facilitated by James Beard award-winning chef and author John Ash, widely respected as a sustainability pioneer. Participants came from a variety of backgrounds: chefs, NGO leaders, journalists and other members of the food industry vanguard.

Each brought a different perspective to the buzz-worthy subject of "conscious cuisine," an idea brought to the forefront by New York Times journalist and author Mark Bittman. In his book, "Food Matters, Guide to Conscious Eating," he explains conscious cuisine as the idea that one deliberately chooses deliciously prepared food that is not just good for you but is also produced with a keen appreciation for the health of and respect for the planet.

Today, consumers are more naturally curious about the provenance of their food and its method of production, and retailers have found a way to make these types of conversations part of the every day. More and more people want to know where their tomatoes were grown and who picked them. They also genuinely care about the quality of life of the cow that yielded that T-bone. But fewer customers think about the sustainability and origin of the seafood on the menu, other than perhaps where the fish were raised.

While some chefs are leading the charge and embracing sustainability at every level, others have been slower to come around on the subject.

As Scott Nichols, PhD of aquaculture innovator, Verlasso, said, “We can’t keep depleting our oceans. To continue to eat fish, we need to raise them in an ecologically responsible manner, benefitting both the consumer and the species - not just capture them. With a current worldwide population exceeding seven billion people - estimates for 2050 push that number to nine billion - effectively sourcing quality fish has come to the forefront of the international discussion on sustainability.”

 

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