Chefs are today storytellers through their dishes connecting ingredients to nutrition, the environment and sustainability. The chef is becoming an activist and he has to, otherwise his story will be a short one, says Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio in a just released documentary called Save the Oceans and Feed the World.
Some of the world’s best chefs gathered in San Sebastian on behalf of ocean conservation and they have pledged support to Oceana’s “Save the Oceans and Feed the World campaign”. They have committed to serve small fish such as anchovies, sardines and herring at their restaurants starting on World Oceans day on June 8, 2015.
The chefs will cook these small fish to encourage diners to seek and enjoy this delicious, healthy seafood and also to promote sustainability.
The documentary, released on the occasion (and which can be viewed below), features some of the world’s best chefs speaking about fish and sustainability in a very interesting and thought provoking way.
“The ocean is so big, so deep, so dark, so unknown. If I think about the ocean, I think about a trip in an unknown part, the dark part of my mind. It is the place where creativity starts. It is the place where your ideas reside,” Massimo Bottura, chef of Italian restaurant Osteria Francescana said.
He said that avant-garde contemporary cuisine is not like 10 or 15 years ago when the chef’s ego was the most important thing. Bottura, prefers to use the small fish such as anchovies rather than tuna. He urged people to take the time to go and buy fresh ingredients. “You will eat so much better this way”.
“What’s happening at the moment is that there are no wild fish left,” said Ferran Adria, of el Bulli Foundation. “For me, if there is a tough job, it is that of a fisherman. I think this is one of the hardest jobs in the world. So every fish we eat it is as if you are eating the soul of these people and hours and hours of really hard work.”
But small fishermen are feeling the brunt of industrial fishermen. Joan Roca of El Cellar de Can Roca says that he has full respect for small fishermen. “They are not to blame for this system.” He said that there are species like mullets which are exquisite but which are discarded by many people either because they have bones or because people do not know how to cook them. “We need to show how it is done and to share methods of how we cook these species. That is the way to give them gastronomic value.”
Andoni Luiz Aduriz of Mugaritz and one of the co-hosts of the event said that it was incredible that local fishermen were no longer able to sell their produce in their local markets. “Their children are eating fish in school that comes from the other side of the world.”
American chef Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park said that there was a lot to learn. “Fish also have seasons. The supply can change from week to week. We cannot be fixated. We need to move away from that idea and work with what nature gives us.”
Andy Sharpless, the author of the book, The Perfect Protein who is also CEO of Oceana says that you would think that farming was good, but farmers feed salmon 3 to four pounds of wild fish to get a pound of salmon. That fish could be eaten instead.
Roca pointed out that the ocean is mankind’s pantry. “The rate of meat consumption at the moment is not sustainable.”
On the same theme, Adria said that a good sardine is better than a bad lobster. He called on this subject to be taught at schools. “It is something we do three times a day and it affects our health and environment.”
The chefs who agreed to join the campaign and serve anchovies and other small fish on June 8 at the their restaurants include: Grant Achatz (Alinea, USA); Gastón Acurio (Astrid y Gastón, Peru); Ferran Adrià (el Bulli Foundation, Spain); Andoni Luiz Aduriz (Mugaritz, Spain); Juan Mari and Elena Arzak (Arzak, Spain); Alex Atala (D.O.M., Brazil); Massimo Bottura (Osteria Francescana, Italy); José Luis González (Gallery Vask, Philippines); Brett Graham (The Ledbury, UK); Rodolfo Guzmán (Boragó, Chile); Daniel Humm (Eleven Madison Park, USA); Normand Laprise (Toqué, Canada); Enrique Olvera (Pujol, Mexico); René Redzepi (Noma, Denmark); Heinz Reitbauer (Steirereck, Austria); Joan Roca (El Celler de Can Roca, Spain); Pedro Subijana (Akelare, Spain); Joachim Wissler (Vendôme, Germany); Ashley Palmer-Watts (Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, UK).
This commitment is the result of an unprecedented gathering of the world’s leading chefs in support of ocean conservation which took place in San Sebastian Spain on March 17, 2015 at the Basque Culinary Center.
“It is remarkable that so many chefs – who are so busy – came together in support of ocean conservation and to take this joint action together. Most of us already love anchovies and other small fish,” said event co-hosts Aduriz and Roca; “it will be a pleasure to share them with our diners and to help Oceana in its campaign to get more people to enjoy them and to help save the oceans and feed the world.”
The small fish the Chefs pledged to serve – species like anchovies, sardines, mackerel and herrings – are known as “forage” fish because they play a crucial role in food webs in some of the most productive marine ecosystems in the world. They are the main prey and pathway for energy transfer from creatures with very low trophic levels—plankton—to those with higher trophic levels—predatory fish, birds, and mammals.
Forage fish form massive shoals that are targeted by some of the largest fisheries on earth, but are only rarely seen in restaurant menus. This is because forage fish are mainly used to make fish meal and fish oil to feed farmed fish like salmon as well as chickens, pigs and other livestock.