Credit to Author: Aleesha Harris| Date: Fri, 14 Feb 2020 19:00:29 +0000
2020 Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown Vancouver
When: Feb. 20, 7 p.m.
Where: Vancouver Aquarium
Tickets and info: $79 + tax; ocean.org/chowder-chowdown/vancouver
Sustainability isn’t a competition. Rather, it’s a goal that, collectively, we all should be working toward. But, when the sustainability conversation is centred around the Chowder Chowdown. Well, then it’s game on.
The annual competition sees 13 of B.C.’s “most-notable” chefs go head-to-head in a two-hour cooking session to create their favourite seafood chowder recipes in the hopes of taking home top honours in categories such as People’s Choice, Best Beer Pairing — and the ultimate honour — Chowder Champion.
“This is one of my favourite events,” Chef Dai Fukasaku of Fukasaku of Prince Rupert, who is competing in the year’s competition, says. “It gives us an opportunity to showcase our northwest seafood, and to meet with chefs who share the same philosophy.”
Taking place Feb. 20 at the Vancouver Aquarium, the event is presented by the Ocean Wise Conservation Association’s seafood program. (Another event will be held in Toronto on Feb. 26, after which a coast-to-coast Chowder Champion title will be awarded, according to a news release.)
But, it’s not just a taste of savoury seafood chowders that are a major draw of the ticketed event. It’s the chance to raise money for the Ocean Wise sustainable seafood program — and to offer expanded insight into sustainable seafood, in general.
“Sustainable seafood is seafood that is fished or farmed with minimal impact to the marine environment,” Stacy Johnston, sous chef for Ocean Wise, explains. “Sustainable seafood from the wild is harvested in a way that limits bycatch of other species, is taken from a healthy fish stock and managed in a proper, responsible manner. Sustainably farmed species are those which require minimal inputs and have the lowest possible potential impacts to other species and important habitats.”
Sustainably sourced seafood products have the least impact on the ocean and environment — and provide buyers with a connection to the people who are procuring it, according to Fukasaku.
“By knowing who harvested our seafood, I can pay utmost respect to the seafood and the ingredients talk by itself,” Fukasaku says. “It has genuine nutrition value, it is local — fisherman to table — and it is tastier.”
Sustainability sourced seafood, adds Chef Chris Andraza of Fanny Bay Oysters, who was last year’s co-champion and will be returning this year to defend the title, is no longer an optional idea. It’s a necessity.
“There should not be any other option at this point,” Andraza says. “The ocean is the most important part of the planet, it’s the lungs and the only reason we are here. If we overfish and take life out of the ocean, we can be certain to feel that on land.
“We have to respect nature, and without knowing where our food is coming from, that will never happen.”
And the need to support sustainable fishing practices will only intensify as the population grows, Johnston says.
“Over one billion people depend on seafood for their primary source of protein. As our population continues to grow, we’ll need to depend even more on our oceans to feed us,” Johnston says. “If we continue to support unsustainable fishing practices, we will lose this precious resource and damage our oceans and food supply beyond repair.”
At his eatery in Prince Rupert, which is referred to as one of the first sushi restaurants in B.C. to go fully Ocean Wise with its ingredients, Fukasaku makes it a top priority to educate and inform diners about the importance of paying attention to the provenance of one’s food.
“As an owner-operator of a small restaurant, I try to tell our clients about the importance of traceability in seafood and people appreciate us knowing where everything comes from and who harvested it,” Fukasaku says. “Guests always seem to enjoy food more knowing where it comes from.”
For those who are curious about how to become better informed about where their seafood selections come from — whether at a restaurant or the grocery store — the chefs recommend always looking for the logo of a sustainable seafood organization such as Ocean Wise. And, to ask questions.
“People have the power to vote with their wallet and to hold their suppliers accountable to where their seafood is coming from and if it is being fished or farmed sustainably,” Johnston says. “By asking questions to your local fish monger, your server and your grocer you can choose whether or not to support sustainable fishing and contribute to the health of our oceans.”
Three chef tips for getting seafood right at home
Cooking seafood at home can seem like a daunting task. That’s why we asked three B.C. culinary talents to dish on what often stands between a home chef and perfectly prepared seafood.
Here’s what they had to say:
“Overcooking is probably the main thing home cooks get wrong. People are used to the feeling of a well-done chicken and use that as a guideline. Seafood should have a little give to it when you do a touch check. Also I would say anything over medium with seafood is overcooked.” — Chef Chris Andraza, Fanny Bay Oysters
“I believe a lot of home chefs are intimidated when faced with seafood. We’ve all had a piece of overcooked or poorly prepared seafood, and I just encourage chefs to keep practising! That, and take your seafood out 30 to 60 minutes before cooking to let it come to room temperature. This will help make sure your seafood is perfectly cooked throughout.” — Stacy Johnston, sous chef for Ocean Wise
“Not utilizing the ingredient 100 per cent. For example, you can make great broth with shrimp shells, live scallops is not all about scallop muscle but gonad and mantle are edible — and they are so yummy!” — Chef Dai Fukasaku, Fukasaku of Prince Rupert