Chefs Collaborative (www.chefscollaborative.org), our partner for the Green Chefs, Blue Ocean (www.oceanfriendlychefs.org) program, held their national gathering of chefs in Boston October 3-5 this year. More than 250 chefs, food producers and members of the media were in attendance for the Chefs Collaborative National Summit (http://chefscollaborative.org/summit/) which featured panels and workshops on emerging food issues. Seafood was a theme throughout many of the sessions highlighting a sampling of issues around this diverse food.
The Summit was a great opportunity for me to meet chefs and culinary instructors and listen to their needs related to seafood education while also hearing from experts on some of the culinary community’s interests and concerns related to the fish on our plates. And while learning was atop the agenda, sharing delicious meals was a close second. Getting to sample sustainable fare from great chefs is always a treat. But back to the learning…
During the first breakout session, ‘The Gulf Disaster: What Will Become of our Future Food Supply?’ had passions running high, understandably. The Gulf of Mexico has long been a major supplier of domestic seafood, with the majority of domestic oysters and shrimp coming from waters threatened by the Deepwater Horizon oil blowout. Panel members talked about steps being taken to keep contaminated seafood out of our seafood supply (http://www.oceanfriendlychefs.org/whats_new/p,58/) while attendees raised their voices with distrust of the government’s ability to ensure food safety (with food media present citing the recent and widespread egg recall: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38741401). There was one thing everyone in attendance could agree on: no one wants fishing opened in areas where oil is still present, independent and authoritative research needs to study the effect of the oil and the dispersants on marine life, and we need to support the fishermen that are in the Gulf.
The first breakout session also featured a chat with Paul Greenberg, author of this year’s highly informative and entertaining book, “Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food” (http://www.fourfish.org/). It’s a great book. Paul does a fantastic job of telling the story of four fish types (Salmon, Bass, Cod and Tuna). He manages to keep the info entertaining and relevant to our plates, and he doesn’t gloss over the complexities or avoid the tough conversations (e.g., maybe we shouldn’t be farming the ocean’s hunting machines). I highly recommend it.
Since we were in Boston, it felt fitting to have a panel on local seafood: ‘Is Local Sustainable? A Look at New England Fisheries.’ Michael Leviton, of Boston’s own Lumiere restaurant (http://www.lumiererestaurant.com/) shared his philosophy on sourcing seafood: he wants to make sure local fishermen stay in business, and together, chefs and fishermen can work toward more sustainable fishing. Glen Libby a fisherman with the Midcoast Fishermen’s Association in Maine (http://www.midcoastfishermen.org/) pointed out something about seafood that’s easy to forget when our supermarket cases continue to be consistently stocked with similar looking fillets, referring to fishing he said “it’s like corn or snowballs, what we do is seasonal.”
The last seafood session ‘Eating Oysters, Tasting Place’ gave attendees a chance to hear about why oysters from different regions can vary in taste–and then they got to slurp East and West Coast varieties to taste the difference for themselves.
The Summit concluded with a luncheon alongside Boston’s famed Charles River with the announcement of next year’s Summit location: in December 2011 we’ll be headed to New Orleans to continue the conversation. Given Louisiana’s rich food culture and integral seafood industry, that’s one conversation I don’t want to miss.
– Kate McLaughlin, Seafood Program Director