Ned Bell: Sustainable Seafood Champion


Ned Bell, executive chef at the Yew Seafood + Bar at the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver, recounts his vision for sustainable seafood in Canada

By Mary Luz Mejia

F&H: You cycled across Canada this past summer in support of your Chefs for Oceans charity for sustainable seafood. What were your goals, and what inspired you?

Ned Bell: I was inspired by people I consider giants like Terry Fox and Rick Hansen, people who took on gigantic tasks and did their best to fulfill them. I don’t compare myself to them, but I believe that one voice heard 10,000 times can have cause and effect. I have two major goals I want to achieve: one, create a national sustainable seafood day — which would fall on March 18th — to keep spreading the sustainable seafood message. There’s only one other country in the world that celebrates this on that day, Australia. Our second goal is to ensure sustainable seafood is readily available to every Canadian within a decade everywhere, from grocery stores to fish mongers.

F&H: How is Chefs for Oceans and your mission being received by the Canadian public?

NB: It’s been very well received. My community, [of] chefs, has a powerful voice. Chefs for Oceans is about my peers, not me as an individual, and we know we have our work cut out for us. Some Canadians are very aware of what we’re trying to do and why it’s important, others have no idea. Awareness and education is a journey, and folks are starting to ask: “What can I do as a customer or a restaurant-goer?” And, that’s partly what makes this successful. I’m not asking people for money, I’m asking people to ask questions and to support a national sustainable seafood day.

F&H: You clearly care about our oceans and the environment. But what else is it behind this cause that makes you such a passionate ambassador?

NB: I love being a chef, because there’s a real connection to people when you feed them. Food is life. Water is life. I’ve watched how, in my 20-year culinary career, we’ve gone from selling the heck out of Chilean sea bass and Ahi tuna, because we didn’t know better, to making better choices. We were overfishing these species and they were disappearing. That scares me as a human, as a father, as a contributor to the world. We’re just cooks; I’m not trying to change the world [with] this [holier]-than-thou position, but I feed thousands of people a week, so it’s my responsibility to understand where this food comes from and know I’m not part of the problem.

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