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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Salmon Filleting Workshop

As the new sustainable seafood campaigner, I asked myself, what would be a good way to promote local fish in a fun way?  I have been in the hospitality industry for almost three decades and have worked with a lot of great folks over the years.  So, naturally I wanted to do something with food as it is a good way to get people interested, especially if there is a celebrity chef involved.  I moonlight as a server at Fable where Chef Trevor Bird, a contestant on Top Chef Canada, has been at the helm of a 60-seat restaurant for the last four years and has recently opened the Fable Diner.  Chef Bird’s philosophy is the foundation of his restaurant: local, organic and seasonal.  At Living Oceans Society, we are working to assist local fishermen using responsible fishing methods to sell directly into the Vancouver marketplace, helping the local economy and displacing unsustainable imported fish.  Often, fresh-caught fish is sold whole, so doing a filleting workshop made sense.

At first, I tried to put together two events; one in Vancouver and one in North Vancouver.  Chef Bird asked Ned Bell, the face of sustainable seafood in Vancouver, to lead one of the workshops and they both kindly agreed to volunteer their time.  I was very excited in the prospect of doing two filleting workshops with two great chefs.  Unfortunately, as the summer slowly went on, the logistics of getting these two very busy chefs at an available location became a lot more challenging!  And to make matters worse, the fishing season had been very disappointing, with Fraser River sockeye showing the lowest numbers ever on record—I might have no fish to fillet!

Luckily, I remembered that at Fable we only used sustainable pink salmon on our menu and contacted the supplier to see if I could get some fish for the workshop and to my relief pink salmon was available!  I ended up with a great location with the help of the folks at Oceanwise; Chef Poyan Danesh in charge of the cooking demonstration at Miele offered the Miele Experience Centre’s kitchen for free – a beautiful room in an amazing location, how lucky is that!

On the day of the event, I had asked a friend to help me with getting the fish from the Aquarium’s fridge to Miele’s kitchen.  Long story a bit longer, that fell through.  I got access to the Miele’s kitchen at 3pm on that day with the event being at 6pm.  I started getting things organized and left at 4pm to get the fish from the Aquarium. Bad idea: one hour from traffic jam!  Realized a couple of blocks later I had forgotten my bus pass and with no money in my pocket, had to run back to get it.  By the time I finally reached the bus stop I realized it was 4:20 pm and I needed to get back in time to finalize the room set up and greet the first participant.  Hail a cab to speed things up.  Get to the aquarium, get the fish and as I come out of the building I see a cab.  I run to get it but someone else was faster; luckily I had time to ask the driver to call me another one.  Wait and wait, time is ticking and no taxi, stuck in the middle of Stanley Park.  I call another company just in case, it’s past 5pm and panic is setting in my gut.  Oh relief, taxi is here at last!  We arrive at 5:20 pm, but the fun is  not over; now I have to carry 80 pounds of salmon for a whole block.  Sweat trickling down my back, I finally open Miele’s door.  I have half an hour to finish the set-up, get some words on paper for an introduction and five minutes to breathe before it starts.  Well, no such luck, the first participant arrives followed by the chef and the show must go on!

That night, Chef Trevor Bird inspired fifteen people of all walks of life to try their hands at filleting a salmon.  Hesitant at first to make the first cut, by the end of the workshop, everyone had filleted a 5-pound, sustainable pink salmon, learnt how to make a tartare and what to do with the bones and the head.  The chef had a couple of surprises up his sleeve.  He cooked the salmon he had used for demonstration for us to enjoy (depending on the oven you have, 200 F’ for 20 minutes or less if you use a convection oven OR until no longer translucent but moist OR to your personal taste). He even made a great tasting tartare out of the trimmings.   The only thing missing was a nice glass of Pinot gris from the Okanagan valley, especially for me!  The night was fun and interesting.

As seafood consumers, we can all make a big difference in the overall sustainability picture for seafood if we ask the right questions: “Where is this fish from?  How was it caught?  Is this fish farmed or wild?” At Living Oceans, we’re working to make it easier for you to answer these questions with online resources like and the Seachoice website (
And now that I’ve perfected the filleting workshop, it’ll be easy for you to sign up next time and learn how to fillet and prepare whole fish fresh from Fishermens’ Wharf to enjoy with family and friends!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Lifestyle over Luxury: Online startup partners with Clear the Coast

By guest blogger Jeff Duke

Clothing brands are a dime a dozen these days. It doesn’t take much to order some standard cotton t-shirts and put a cool looking logo on them. When Lifestyle Over Luxury was conceived a year and a half ago, somewhere 100m off the coast of Australia - that’s the exact opposite of what we set out to do.

Cotton is one of the most chemical intensive crops in the world. It occupies 2.5% of the world’s agricultural land but is responsible for 22.5% of the world’s insecticide use and 10% of the global pesticide use. Over a million agricultural workers are hospitalized each year from exposure to these chemicals while working on cotton plantations. A lot of these chemicals end up in what you’re probably wearing right now - a considerable amount runs off and ends up in waterways and eventually the ocean. All this in the name of cheap product production.

Lifestyle Over Luxury was founded to make a difference in people’s lives; to inspire them to look at life a little differently, define their own success and break away from the routine lives we’ve all come to accept as fulfilling. L/L was inspired by leaving that normality behind and years of travelling this incredible planet - walking the beaches, surfing the oceans, exploring the forests. It was impossible not to gain an incredibly heightened respect for this amazing place we all live. It was also impossible to overlook the devastating impact we’ve had on it.

When it came time to create something tangible out of the L/L ideology, we weren’t going to become a part of the problem we’d seen first hand. Our clothes are all sustainably made in Canada from bamboo and organic cotton. Bamboo is one of the fastest growing textile plants in the world. It doesn’t require replanting like cotton - so it’s less taxing on the agricultural land. It’s naturally disease and insect resistant so pesticides and insecticides are not required. Best of all, it’s ridiculously soft and comfortable. Organic cotton is made naturally without the use of insecticides or pesticides.

We wanted to go beyond just producing a sustainable product. We wanted L/L to develop a 360 degree sustainability approach where production and sales were both making a difference. We are so stoked to be working alongside Living Oceans to make this happen. We donate $1.00 from every single sale directly to their Clear the Coast project - this is leveraged by Living Oceans for matching funding and results in an entire garbage bag of trash cleaned up off our shores with every single L/L sale.

At our current rate by 2050 the weight of plastic in the ocean is going to outweigh the fish. We’re surfers, sailors, divers and adventurers addicted to exploring this world - this is not the kind of world we want to live in. Imagine our kids paddling out through this generation’s trash. I doubt that’s the world you want either. Every dollar you spend is vote cast for the world you want to live in. What are you voting for?

Learn more about L/L and check out our gear at