Over three years ago, while investing in my only restaurant venture to date, I wanted to make sure I was offering the best quality and most sustainable ingredients available to me. Eventually, after some phone calls and other research, I discovered the Ocean Wise Organization. In the short time since then, Ocean Wise has done a remarkable job of making the public aware of their program and of having restaurants embrace the Ocean Wise concept when developing their menus.
On November 3rd, when they release the Ocean Wise Cookbook (edited by celebrated Vancouver-based writer Jane Mundy) Ocean Wise will reach even further towards an audience eager to be educated about how to make smart seafood choices for the environment.
Ocean Wise is a conservation program initiated by Vancouver's own C Restaurant and Executive Chef Robert Clark. Together with the Vancouver Aquarium, they developed a program to guide consumers and businesses alike in making sustainable and environmentally friendly choices that reflect the best interest of the world's oceans, and educate the public on the negative impact of making non-sustainable seafood choices.
On Earth Day 2005, the first Ocean Wise Dining Guide was released. By then, 15 restaurants had joined C in considering how seafood was being fished before putting it on their menus. Today over 200 restaurants and seafood markets across Canada and the US proudly display the Ocean Wise logo on their menus, and that number is growing.
The Ocean Wise Cookbook highlights the sustainable seafood and freshwater fish available to us and features exciting recipes from some of Canada's most revered chefs. When asked for a comment on her experience in working on this book, editor Jane Mundy recalls that her biggest challenge was to test each of the recipes from Canada's 90 chefs who contributed to the book and ensure that the ingredients matched the methods. Her research and interviews with various chefs and fishers taught her that frozen is often a better choice than fresh; and that farmed seafood is a better choice than wild, particularly in the case of farmed oysters and mussels.
Ocean Wise program manager Mike McDermid reflects that this project is a labor of love. "When Jane approached me about the idea, I thought it was the perfect fit." He says, expressing a great deal of gratitude towards Ms. Mundy and the numerous restaurants who believed in the Ocean Wise mission, and for the hard work of the countless chefs and restauranteurs across Canada for, "really believing in our ideas, and respecting the necessity of creating a market for sustainable seafood that helped make this such a success."
Mike, his colleagues, and longtime Ocean Wise supporters are very excited to see the cookbook come together; they see it as a milestone for Vancouver and the rest of Canada.
The Ocean Wise Cookbook will not only celebrate the phenomenal progress of the organization, it will also celebrate Canada's awareness and eagerness to make a positive change in how we choose our seafood. The timing could not be more urgent. Underlining the philosphy of the Ocean Wise Cookbook is an awareness of looming environmental catastrophes, and the already significant decrease sustainable fish available on the planet.
Chef Michael Smith of Chef at Home, Iron Chef Rob Feenie, and Jamie Kennedy of Jamie Kennedy Kitchens are just a few of the contributors who make this book a must for food enthusiasts and environmentally conscious consumers alike.
Unfortunately, some of the Ocean Wise-approved fish are not conveniently accessible to the everyday chef. That is, even when you can buy them at the market, you may not know what to do with them once you have them. It will be exciting to see how some of Canada's most recognizable chefs will teach us how to prepare dishes like Beaver Cove Spot Prawns with Citrus Basil Butter and Grilled Scallops with Charred Heirloom Tomato Salad.
For those of you who cannot wait to get your hands on a copy, you can already view some instructional Ocean Wise Cookbook Videos that demonstrate techniques such as cleaning a squid and filleting salmon.