Chefs for oceans

Last night’s dinner at Atelier was delicious and jolly, but it was also a celebration of our Canadian oceans, lakes, rivers and streams, a call to action in sustaining their health, and a plea for cooks everywhere to choose wisely at the fish counter.

Marc Lepine and the team at Atelier played host to Vancouver chef Ned Bell last night, passionate seafood advocate and educator, Executive Chef for OceanWise at the Vancouver Aquarium, and founder of Chefs for Oceans.

As a food writer who has always believed that, when it comes to fish, freshness is everything, the lessons learned last night were instructive. None more than this one: “Frozen fish is not a four-letter word,” Ned Bell told a full house at Atelier.  “In the middle of the country, frozen fish, responsibly caught and frozen on boat is usually the better option… It also tends to be more affordable.”

We were eating frozen fish. The Northern coho salmon (caught just above Haida Gwaii, the rich salmon belly featured in one dish, the leaner loin in another) was caught at the end of last year’s salmon season. We were reminded that 2019 is the International Year of the Salmon, and for chef Bell “there’s no more important fish in Canada than wild Pacific salmon. For me, salmon is a magical fish, one than can swim touching five countries in its lifespan, an iconic fish for Canada, and one with deep importance to indigenous Canadians.”

It wasn’t all fish. Course five belonged to Marc Lepine and he gave us lamb, the loin cooked sous vide, set on a polished jus and served next to a speckled log of Perigord truffles and black truffle oil textured with tapioca maltodextrin, and studded with a stain glass of root shards – beet, rutabaga, parsnip and sweet potato.

Both chefs have produced stunning cookbooks, Bell in 2017 and Lepine in 2018. Last night’s dinner featured six dishes, three from each book. The six-course, $120 ticket came with a copy of both Lure, by Ned Bell and Atelier, by Marc Lepine (Figure.1) a combined retail value of $85.  I’m still shaking my head at that steal of a deal. Plus it was damn tasty. And came with wise and important counsel. Plus, wine, poured by the brilliant Steve Robinson.

It was a complete treat, and my thanks to chefs Lepine and Bell for the pleasure.