The Floating Dining Room Will Change the Way You Eat Fish

TakePart has already lamented how difficult it can be to find sustainable seafood when heading out for a nice meal on the town. It seems like diners who want to do the right thing by Mother Nature—and still enjoy great fish—need to haul along a binder full of charts and fact sheets to make sure they're making the ethical selection.

One group of Vancouver seafood lovers wants you to be confident in your menu choices, even if you don't have a doctorate in marine biology. That means taking the pressure off the diner, and putting it on the kitchen.

"I don't want to have a binder with me when I go to dinner," says Shannon Ronalds, co-founder of the nonprofit School of Fish Foundation. "If I could support the restaurants that had chefs doing the right thing, I could feel bliss in my ignorance."

For Ronalds, the key to sustainable seafood dining lies in the training today's chef's get at culinary schools and food programs.  His organization works to convince these programs to revamp their classes to emphasize sustainability and responsibility—since that is what the public wants.

Chefs have the potential to serve up to 3 million sustainable seafood dinners over the life of their careers, if only they know which alternatives to serve, and what to ask suppliers and merchants.

"In our idealized world, Seafood 101 would be 'here's how you filet a fish, and here's the questions you can ask a supplier so you know about the sustainability of the fish.' "

To raise money for the School of Fish Foundation, Ronalds and his wife ran a 60-day dining campaign aboard the S.S. Plastic Dining Room—a 12-person floating restaurant made entirely of recycled, renewable, repurposed or reclaimed materials in Vancouver's False Creek Yacht club.

The dinners garnered about $100,000 for the cause, and showcased a 100 percent sustainable menu for a crowd of mainly dining industry insiders who may not have realized all the tasty and creative things that can be done with the ocean's bounty—without contributing to the collapse of fish stocks.

Ronalds hopes to instill that sense of creativity and versatility in up-and-coming chefs.

"If the cost of sustainable seafood is an issue, we would show [them] how to us a 4-ounce portion of a sustainable seafood, plus another 1-ounce potion of another sustainable seafood," to keep costs in line. "Salmon doesn't have to be on the menu 365 days of the year."

The group hopes to take the floating dining room on the road (to mix a metaphor), and has its sites set on mooring off the coast of Cape Town in 2012. 

Meanwhile, Ronalds says the number one way diners can encourage seafood restaurants to embrace sustainability is to speak up.

"There's one thing that saves everyone and the planet: Go to dinner, order seafood, and ask where it came from. Show there's a demand. If the chef doesn't know the answer, people will think less of that restaurant."

From our friends at TakePart.com, who cover the culture and lifestyle of change.

[Image by Photo via Creative Commons/Flickr/swanksalot]

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