Sustainable Is…

Tracy Griffith's sustainable sushi.

At last week’s eighth annual “Cooking for Solutions” event at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, chefs, winemakers, scientists, purveyers, fishermen, farmers, and food writers came together to learn and discuss  how to better follow a more sustainable path — one that lessens the impact on earth and oceans.

What is sustainable? It comes in all guises. Come see for yourself.

Sustainable is…

Tracy Griffith, sushi chef and sister of actress Melanie, whose seared albacore roll (see photo above) served at the gala showcased a sustainable fish that’s one of the top choices on the aquarium’s “Seafood Watch Guide” and “Sushi Guide.”

Earthbound Farms' organic fro-yo served at its farmstand.

…Carmel Valley’s Earthbound Farm, the pioneer in pre-washed salad greens. With 40,000 acres in California, Arizona, and Mexico, it  now is the largest organic farm in the world. Its farm stand on Carmel Valley Road is open year-round. It just started selling its own organic fro-yo, too.  Slightly tart and lighter in body than Pinkberry, the creamy treat comes in natural honey and a fruit flavor (You can get the two swirled together, too). The day I was there the featured flavor was raspberry.

Chef Thomas Keller.

…Thomas Keller. The acclaimed chef of the French Laundry in Yountville was honored as “Chef of the Year” by the aquarium for his work in promoting fresh, local, and sustainable ingredients through his spectacular four-star cooking.

Keller graciously signed copies of his cookbooks during the event, as fiancee Laura Cunningham, former director of operations for his restaurants, looked on. She wasn’t wearing her Keller-designed engagement ring that night, only because it was being re-sized. Still no word yet on whether the nuptials will take place this year or next.

The jovial Alton Brown.

…the Food Network’s Alton Brown, who was honored as “Educator of the Year” by the aquarium. Brown and his wife plan to set up a foundation to foster sustainable food projects. He’s also received the nod from the Food Network to do several “Good Eats” shows highlighting sustainable seafood.

Tataki Sushi & Sake Bar in San Francisco, the first sustainable sushi bar in North America. Diners are heartily embracing the concept, so much so that the tiny sushi bar now sometimes has a wait of two hours on weekdays.

At the “Cooking for Solutions” gala, Tataki’s sushi chefs handed out “faux-nagi” — scored wild sablefish brushed with the traditional sweet soy-rice wine sauce that has the same silky mouth-feel as overfished unagi (eel).

It tastes like unagi, but this is sustainable.

Greenfish Catering, a five-year-old San Jose company that specializes in sustainable sushi platters, bento boxes, and catered events that feature good-for-you and good-for-the-environment ingredients such as farm-raised oysters.

Sustainable oysters on the half shell.

Hawaii's Sam Choy.

…and Chef Sam Choy, who has taught countless visitors to Hawaii to savor and appreciate true local, Hawaiian ingredients.

Choy is building a new restaurant on Kona that will be 80 percent green. The yet-to-be-named restaurant, with a view of the ocean from every table, is expected to open next year.

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15 comments

  1. 1

    Gosh, out of all the wonderful things/people there, I’m embarrassed to say that I’m most jealous of …gasp…the PINKBERRY! I eat it every time I go out to LA, sometimes two or three times a day, no joke, and I miss it so much when I’m in Nashville. So weirdly addicting.

  2. 2

    I’m so happy to see all these great people getting their due. I read in Gourmet that there was talk that farms qualifying for human certification will rise from 3 to 35 percent in five years. What do you think about that?

    I do love the campaigns for sustainability. Living out in the country in Western NJ, we sometimes feel that we’ve gone back in time; farms are everywhere, eggs from the chickens in people’s backyards and small farms are cheaper than the supermarket’s, and everyone seems to agree that it’s best this way. I always go through a culture shock when we vacation and see McDonald’s all about. I’m always (overzealously) telling people to come visit me, because I know that once they hang out around here long enough, they’ll be searching for the sustainable options near them. : )

  3. 3

    I’ve been doing a little digging lately to learn more about beef producers in Texas, and what I keep hearing is that the status quo is necessary to meet the high demand. I was hoping to find some good news to report, as you have done so well here, but it seems that major changes just aren’t in the works yet in that industry.

  4. 4

    Foodgal, I try to be a responsible eater of seafoods but find it to be surprisingly hard even here in the Bay Area. I bring my little seafood watch pamphlet, (both the regular fish and the special sushi one just to be sure) and feel like a crazy health inspector comparing the sources listed on the menu against my little brochure. Even with the list, I feel like I’m still making the wrong choices, similar to the Slow Cook’s experience at a supposedly sustainable restaurant. I suppose you just do the best you can.

  5. 5

    What an informative and wonderful post! I’m proud to live in the bay area where so many responsible chefs/owners are! I’ve definitely started being more mindful of the foods that we purchase, especially seafood. I love that we have the farmer’s market on the Embarcadero, which is right next to our place! Shopping there on Sundays is my favorite!

  6. 6

    Oh I wish I could have gone!

  7. 7

    I really do LOVE the way you write. you really bring out passion in your words.
    And thanks so much for this info. I never gave sustainability much thought until this post.

  8. 8

    It’s definitely like dodging a mine-field when you step inside a grocery store these days. What to buy? What to avoid? It’s enough to make your head spin. It can get rather complicated, as Foodhoe so rightly pointed out. All we can do is just try to do the best that we can in the choices that we are confronted with. We might not be able to do the right thing every single time, but we can strive to do more and more each time.

  9. 9

    Wow, Sam looks like he’s lost some weight.

  10. 10

    I went to this event many years ago where I had my first taste of talapia. Alice Waters and Rick Bayless were there that year, among others. It was my first indoctrination into sustainable foods. Though I admit I’m not as good as I could be, the event did make me much more aware of what I eat.

  11. 11

    I have a tremendous amount of respect for Chef Keller. He totally deserves the title “Chef of the Year”. I’m so envious that you attended the event. It sounds like it was like a lot of fun.

  12. 12

    Sounds like an incredible dining adventure in a wonderful setting. I love the fact that they are raising awareness on the sustainability issues,

  13. 13

    Many thanks for sharing the experience! However, I’m still trying to work through the complexities in the issues of responsible food consumption and production (sustainable, local, seasonal) that abut each other – for instance, how do I, living in MN, reconcile my purchase of responsibly farmed mussels with the fact that it must be shipped all the way from New Zealand (per the Seafood Watch Guide)? Which issue takes precedence?

    I used to feel guilty about certain food purchases because of its impact on my personal, physical well-being; now, I must also try to keep in mind ecological and social responsibility as well. As you say, we must do the best we can . . .

  14. 14

    [...] renowned chefs have been — and still are — leaders in the sustainable seafood movement. Check out the Room for Debate forum. If [...]

  15. 15

    [...] And: “Cooking for Solutions” 2009 [...]

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