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Vancouver Chefs Take the Plunge

Meet British Columbia’s most fish-friendly chefs as we dive into Vancouver’s sustainable seafood scene.

Chef Robert Wong is already something of a culinary hero. In 2009, his Hong Kong restaurant, Chilli Fagara, was the first Szechuan eatery in the world to receive a Michelin star. Then, in December, the soft-spoken chef took another pioneering step: His Vancouver restaurant, Szechuan Chongqing, which his family has owned and operated for 30 years, became the first traditional Chinese dining establishment in Canada to join Ocean Wise. The Vancouver Aquarium’s conservation program partners with restaurants, markets and suppliers to ensure they’re making fish-friendly decisions, such as keeping endangered species off their menus.

Egmont sturgeon with Divine Caviar from Sechelt and Bella-Bella Humpbacked Shrimp at OruEgmont sturgeon with Divine Caviar from Sechelt and Bella-Bella Humpbacked Shrimp at Oru

“I heard about the program from visiting Canadian chefs when I was in Hong Kong, so when I came home, I wanted to do my part,” says Wong, who grew up in Winnipeg and in Vancouver.

“We’re at a tipping point right now with the oceans,” explains Mike McDermid, Ocean Wise’s partner relations manager. “Scientists have been warning us for years that if we don’t change our behaviour, we’ll face a mass extinction of species.”

Since its launch in 2005, Ocean Wise has grown to encompass more than 3,000 partners across Canada and 86 restaurants brands in Vancouver alone. Building awareness is no easy task, especially when many cultures are accustomed to cooking traditional dishes that call for specific seafood ingredients.

“Growing up Chinese, you eat what your parents and grandparents eat,” says chef Wong. “We were never taught about how to protect our oceans.”

Sablefish dish at Blue Water CafeSablefish dish at Blue Water Café (Photo: Nikki Bayley)

Part of the initiative involves finding sustainable ingredients to replace those that are becoming increasingly scarce. As one of the first restaurants in Vancouver to partner with Ocean Wise, Yaletown’s Blue Water Café is at the helm of this movement. Every February, their Unsung Heroes Festival serves as a showcase for the different sustainable proteins that swim in British Columbia’s waters. Diners can try dishes like smoked potato and shiitake mushroom chowder with sautéed sea cucumber and grilled scallion.



Comments… or add another

Chris Eastman

Monday, February 4th 2013 15:20
How did you miss CactusClubCafe in this article? The were one of the, if not the first restaurants to join Oceanwise. Also their Menu architect and Canadian Iron chef Rob Feenie was the man responsible for bring a sustainable fish like Savlefish to Vancouver


Monday, February 4th 2013 17:42
IDEA: I have been in the travel business for about 35 years....oh yes there have been so many years and miles and clients.
Once upon a time...a long time ago, Air Canada published recipes of famous restaurants in their cities of destination, this was all before computers and google and websites. Once a week they would feature a city within their network,a hotel from that city, and famous restaurant within that hotel, and a recipe from the chef. They were fantastic. I printed many of them, and still today I am making and enjoying these recipes from restaurants that may not even exist today, many are family favourites. Just an old school idea for you.


Monday, February 4th 2013 17:56
@ Christine: Thanks for the new, old, idea. We'll look in to it.

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