The auditorium of the Basque Culinary Center in San Sebastian is full. The voice of a solo soprano singing the soundtrack of the movie Mission can be heard. Images of the sea flood the public with emotion. Oceana, an international organisation dedicated to ensuring the conservation of the oceans, wants to seal an alliance with the best chefs in the world under the slogan Save the oceans: feed the world.
Hosted by chefs Andoni Luis Aduriz of Mugaritz and Joan Roca of El Celler de Can Roca, the attending chefs are: Ferran Adrià (elBulli Foundation, Spain); Massimo Bottura (Osteria Francescana, Italy); Daniel Humm (Eleven Madison Park, USA); Ashley Palmer-Watts (Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, UK); Alex Atala (D.O.M., Brazil); Juan Mari and Elena Arzak (Arzak, Spain), Pedro Subijana (Akelaŕe, Spain); Grant Achatz (Alinea, USA); Brett Graham (The Ledbury, UK); Joachim Wissler (Vendôme, Germany); Heinz Reitbauer (Steirereck, Austria); Gastón Acurio (Astrid y Gastón, Peru); Enrique Olvera (Pujol, Mexico); Rodolfo Guzmán (Boragó, Chile); Normand Laprise (Toqué, Canada) and José Luis González (Gallery Vask, Philippines). René Redzepi (Noma, Denmark) was unable to attend the event but has also pledged his support for the campaign.
In the trailer of the documentary The Perfect Protein, directed by Caterina Barjau, the message to the audience is clear:
- Small fish species such as sardines and anchovies, little valued by consumers, provide equal or more nutrition and flavour than larger and more popular fish
- Fishing quotas must be based on scientific evidence, not on the demands of the industry
- If we fish today in a responsible way, we can guarantee the future
- It is scientifically demonstrated that fish communities are able to regenerate
- Fish consumption has more health benefits compared with meat
Here, each chef explains his own personal reason for supporting Oceana:
"We can show the world through our cuisine that the ocean's possibilities are immense. We talk about fish, but we have to take into account all organisms that inhabit the seas." - Alex Atala, D.O.M., São Paulo
"Chefs have the power of seduction, let's use it to change consumers' tastes!" - Gastón Acurio, Acurio Restaurantes, Lima
"People already understand that there are seasons for fruits and for vegetables. We should help them understand that this is also the case for fish." - Daniel Humm, Eleven Madison Park, New York
"I want to use local fish in my menus. All these chefs do it already, more or less. But in my new menu I will also emphasise the way of cooking autochthonous fish." - Enrique Olvera, Pujol, Mexico City
"We have to protect the small fishermen in their little boats, these guys that are fishing every day. Everybody cares about their own health, so we should also care about the ocean. It is our biggest pantry." - Joan Roca, El Celler de Can Roca, Girona
"At elBulli foundation we will work on a classification of species so that everyone can use the same language." - Ferran Adrià, elBulliFoundation, Spain
"It is not acceptable that small fisherman see their children eating fish from abroad in their schools canteens." - Andoni Luis Aduriz, Mugaritz, San Sebastian
"In the nineties, we started to serve fish that were not common in Akelare and customers rejected them. For them, those fish (anchovies, mackerel) were just for cats!" - Pedro Subijana, Akelare, San Sebastian
The campaign is global, but it's not just for haute cuisine chefs. It is just the beginning. Everyone must understand that the basis of good nutrition is good fish.
And what better place than a university, at the source of knowledge, to start spreading the word?
Maria Canabal is a food, travel and lifestyle journalist living in Copenhagen, Paris and Madrid. She contributes to Monocle, Apicius, Gourmet and Le Monde Blogs.
Maria is the president of Parabere Forum, the first forum in the world for women in gastronomy, an annual event that gathers thought leaders in the field of food. In 2015, she was recognised as the "Most Influential Woman in Food" by the International Foundation "Women's Week".
You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @canabalmaria