Seafood champs stir the pot to help Vancouver Aquarium

B.C. chefs’ seafood chowder campaign to help the financially ailing Vancouver Aquarium

By Samantha McLeod

Some of B.C.’s top chefs have come together to help the financially ailing Vancouver Aquarium by cooking and selling batches of sustainable seafood chowder.

Proceeds from the sale of the chowder will support the Vancouver Aquarium, which remains in serious financial difficulty as a result of closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Vancouver Aquarium, home to 70,000 creatures, attracts between 1,000 and 2,000 visitors a day and collects about $3 million a month in admission and other revenues. The Ocean Wise Conservation Association, the non-profit parent organization of the facility, which operates with an annual budget of about $38 million, has already cut its non-essential expenses and laid off about 60% of its staff.

“Since closing to the public on March 17 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the not-for-profit Vancouver Aquarium has lost millions in ticket revenue that would normally support animal care, facilities and ocean conservation programs,” the Aquarium said.

“Sadly, the long-term future of the Vancouver Aquarium is at risk.”

Among the culinary champs stirring the pot for the ‘Chefs for Vancouver Aquarium’ seafood chowder campaign is Ned Bell, co-owner of The Naramata Inn and former Executive Chef of Ocean Wise.

“The Vancouver Aquarium has done so much for the Anti-fish farm activist’s numbers don’t add upand has inspired a nation of chefs to be champions for our oceans,” he said.

“It’s because of the Ocean Wise Seafood program that so many local and Canadian chefs have had the opportunity to learn about sustainable seafood, work for restaurants that are embracing it, cook for guests who continue to ask for it, and be ambassadors in the global effort towards ocean conservation.”

Claire Li, Sustainability Director at Gindara Sablefish, which grows a premium fish in the waters of Kyuquout Sound off British Columbia, said her local farm shares the same ocean conservation values as the Vancouver Aquarium.

“We believe that the world post-COVID needs organizations like the Vancouver Aquarium and Ocean Wise to still be around for the health of our oceans, which after all, is tied to the health of communities and people around the world,” she said.

All of the ingredients available to the chefs for their chowders – including sustainably harvested Haida Gwaii razor clams, sablefish and salmon, right down to the cream, butter and gluten-free flour –  are being donated free of charge by fishers and suppliers including Ocean Mama, Freshline, Organic Ocean, Gindara Sablefish, Nextjen, Intercity Packers, Deluxe Seafood and Sysco.

Chowders will be available for purchase starting Friday, May 22 at each participating chef’s restaurant or location.

Most chefs will sell their chowder fresh or frozen in 1 litre sustainably sourced take-away containers for $20 (with a minimum of $15 going to Vancouver Aquarium). Some chefs will serve their chowder in smaller portions as part of their menu (with a minimum of 75% of proceeds to Vancouver Aquarium, although many chefs are being more generous).

Here is a list of the participating chefs and where you can get their chowder;

  • Chef Ned Bell and Chef Stacy Johnson (The Naramata Inn) – Ned and Stacy’s Naramata Inn Smoked Seafood Chowder
  • Chef Rob Clark – Fish Counter Chowders. Available at The Fish Counter
  • Chef Alex Chen – BLVD Signature Clam Chowder BLVD Signature Clam Chowder with Maple Cured and Smoked Sablefish. Available at Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar
  • Chef Hamid SalimianGranville Island Summer Clam Chowder. Available at Popina Canteen
  • Chef Amanda Cheng and Chef Makoto OnoMak N Ming Kitsilano Beachside Sake Kasu Razor Clam Chowder. Available at Mak N Ming
  • Chef Welbert ChoiHand-shredded BBQ Duck and BC Scallop Chowder. Available at Forage
  • Paul ZhangHeritage Seafood Coconut Curry. Available at Heritage Asian Eatery
  • Chef Chris Andraza –  Fanny Bay West Coast Smoked Oyster Chowder. Available at Fanny Bay Oyster Bar & Shellfish Market
  • Chef Poyan Danesh (Ocean Mama Seafood) – Ocean Mama Ocean Wise Shrimp Chowder. Available at Windsor Meats
  • Chef Mark AmosSpicy Coconut Corn and Seafood Chowder. Available at Edge Catering
  • Chef Mark GreenfieldSeaside Provisions Style New England Clam Chowder. Available at  Seaside Provisions
  • Chef Paul Benallick – Hollyburn Ocean Wise Seafood Chowder. Available to members at Hollyburn Country Club

“We are extremely grateful to the local chef community for supporting the Vancouver Aquarium,” said Lasse Gustavsson, president and CEO of Ocean Wise Conservation Association.

“We still have a long way to go to ensure the future of the Vancouver Aquarium, but the funds and awareness raised as a result of this initiative will absolutely help.”

To find out more about other community initiatives raising funds for the Vancouver Aquarium go here.

Vancouver Aquarium Photo courtesy of Aqua Blog, From the North, Flickr.