Chef's Choice: Sustainable seafood with Chef Robert Clark 

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Sustainable Chef Chef Robert Clark will be in Whistler for Cornucopia this weekend.
  • Photo submitted
  • Sustainable Chef Chef Robert Clark will be in Whistler for Cornucopia this weekend.

In the beginning, Robert Clark never meant to start a sustainable seafood revolution.

In fact, he didn't even mean for seafood to be his main focus.

"My background is seafood, growing up in eastern Quebec surrounded by seafood and stuff, but professionally it was never a goal," he said.

He moved out west in an effort to find a better quality of seafood than what he was seeing in other cities, but found himself disappointed.

"I thought it would be a great place to come and it would be obviously good seafood here, but when I got here in 1992 it certainly wasn't," he said.

"It was actually quite disappointing how poor the quality was."

And it was the pursuit of a better quality of seafood that led Clark to the sustainability movement.

"At the end of the day, what was driving me as a chef wasn't trying to save the oceans in the beginning," he said.

"It was about pursuing quality, and there's a correlation between quality and sustainability."

In part, it was his time as the executive chef of the C Restaurant in Vancouver that showed him the importance of sustainability.

"That created the environment... where sustainability became an issue," he said.

The menu at C was seafood exclusive and consisted of 30-40 items, which was a challenge.

"It was hard to make that many menu items exclusively out of seafood without using chicken, and beef and stuff," said Clark.

"It forced me to go looking for fish, to start off with, because suppliers couldn't really supply me with that much variety."

Through his own research and discussions with fishermen, Clark began to realize why the quality of some seafood varies.

"Even a piece of salmon — different qualities would be delivered to your door. It's quite complicated and there are many different facets as to why that happens," he said.

"But I started to understand that."

The sustainability movement that started at C grew from a local idea into a national program.

"We were getting closer to our fishermen, there was more transparency, all of these initiatives that we were starting at C were catching on," Clark explained.

After about 10 years at C, Clark decided to bring that sustainability and quality to the retail level.

In collaboration with Mike McDermid, marine biologist, conservationist and sustainable seafood expert, Clark started The Fish Counter in Vancouver.

"There were no suppliers and no retailers selling good quality (seafood), so I feel that Mike and I can have a significant impact on the retail level," Clark said.

And this weekend, Clark is teaming up with the Vancouver Aquarium's Oceanwise program to bring a sustainability seafood workshop to Whistler's Cornucopia.

"We're going to go up and we're going to talk about sustainable seafood. I'm going to do a three-course tasting (event). I have actually no idea what I've got myself into, other than there's going to be 60 people sitting at tables out there and I have to feed them," Clark said with a laugh.

"The items that I have selected to try touch on the different points of sustainability and the importance of it, and there are stories behind them all, so the ingredients have been picked... to get the sustainable seafood message across to the people that are sitting there.

"I'm pretty entertaining once I get turned on. I don't really get too excited about performing, but once I get a mic on I tend not to shut up, so they'll be entertained and they'll be fed. And they'll get an opportunity to taste some great sustainable seafood."

Chef Robert Clark will be appearing as part of Cornucopia's Culinary Stage Series on Sunday, Nov. 9 from 2:30 – 4 p.m.

Tickets are $40 and can be purchased at www.whistlercornucopia.com.

For more on sustainable fishing efforts in British Columbia visit www.oceanwise.ca.

Spicy Dungenesscrab and Shrimp Cake

Serves 8

Ingredients

1 lbs cooked dungeness crab meat

1 lbs cooked baby shrimp meat

1 whole egg

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup "panko" bread crumbs

1 tbs smooth dijon mustard

2 tsp white wine vinegar

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 bunch green onions, sliced

2 tsp cracked white pepper

salt if needed

1 cup "panko" bread crumbs, for coating the cakes

Preparation

Remove any shell from the crab meat.

Press the crab and shrimp meat in a strainer to remove as much moisture as possible.

Mix all the ingredients and let sit for 30 minutes.

Form into 4 ounce, puck shaped cakes.

Coat the cakes with the extra bread crumbs.

Over medium heat, pan fry with a touch of oil or clarified butter until golden brown on both sides.

Serve with your favorite seafood sauce.

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