Nathan Fong

Nathan Fong connected the world to B.C. seafood

Accolades pour in from around the world after the sudden passing of B.C.’s seafood ambassador

By Fabian Dawson

Small in stature but gigantic in his passion for food, Nathan Fong’s global epicurean adventures touched many in the restaurant business, shaping their destinies to reach greater culinary heights.

Chindi Varadarajulu was one of them. Her first ‘Fong Encounter’, as it has happened for many others, left an indelible and lasting impression on her business.

“I had a small South Indian restaurant in Vancouver and was struggling for about two years…Nathan introduced me to a New York Times writer doing a feature on Vancouver’s Indian restaurants…the rest as they say is history,” reminisced Varadarajulu, who now operates three restaurants and an artisanal bakery in Chennai, South India.

“I did not even know him well but he endorsed my restaurant…Nathan was very sweet and passionate and always ready to help,” Varadarajulu, told SeaWestNews, on hearing about her friend’s sudden death yesterday.

“We spoke two weeks ago and were planning his visit to India to help with menus for my new Chinese restaurant…I am shocked beyond belief.”

As the world woke up to Fong’s sudden passing today, accolades poured in from far and wide for the Vancouver born chef and award-winning food stylist. Many remembered on their social media pages about the first time they met this food ambassador and how he helped them.

Nathan Fong began his career about 30 years ago and became an internationally published food and travel journalist. He was a contributor on Global TV with his ‘Fong on Food’ show, a writer for The Vancouver Sun, as well as a regular contributor to BCLD’s Taste Magazine. In addition, he has worked for Enroute, Bon Appetit, Fine Cooking, Cooking Light, Men’s Health UK, and NUVO.

Fong, was a regular fixture at international seafood festivals accompanying B.C. ministers around the world as they promoted the province’s bounty.

“He was our government chef since 2012 to promote B.C. seafood, recalled Rob Arthurs, the former Senior Manager for Agri Foods B.C.

“Nathan was always in a controlled frenzy at these seafood festivals in Boston, Brussels and in China…he would make thousands of samples for attendees moving with ease from scrambled eggs and caviar to B.C. salmon and black cod dishes…he was simply a fantastic spirit,” said Arthurs.

Samantha McLeod, a Vancouver-based food and travel writer, who worked with Fong to showcase the annual B.C. Seafood Festival, remembered him as having an uncanny ability to herd chefs.

“Last year at the Seafood Festival, he was marshalling over 30 chefs to ensure there would be something for everyone to enjoy and learn about B.C.’s seafood,” she said.

“He was organizing all the chefs for all the events from the industry reception, gala, demos, master classes, chef competition and the new junior chef competition…while creating a special dish featuring albacore tuna…he connected the world to B.C.’s seafood,” said McLeod.

The B.C. Seafood Festival, is the largest event of its kind in Western Canada and is held annually every June, in the Comox Valley.

“Much of the growth and success of the BC Seafood Festival, and the awareness of the importance of the BC seafood industry, can be traced directly back to Nathan,” said John Watson, executive director of the Comox Valley Economic Development and Tourism.

“His passion for BC seafood brought with it his deep network with chefs in BC, Canada and around the world, who joined him in showcasing the incredible producers and products from the province, not only at our Festival, but at numerous international seafood shows and restaurants.

“He will be deeply missed by us and the entire BC seafood family,” said Watson.

Ned Bell, founder of Chefs For Oceans, said :”Nathan was a friend to so many of us…in seafood, culinary, travel, tourism, media, food styling photography…He will be missed and remembered by so many of us.”

“Thank you Nathan…we will always have geoduck and the royal visit to chuckle about,” said Bell, who is Chef Ambassador for International Year of the Salmon, and author of the best selling LURE cookbook.