Sustainable dinner of a lifetime on SS Floating Dining Room

Posted by on Aug 31, 2010

A memorable meal on the School of Fish Foundation’s Floating Dining Room puts a lens on dire state of our oceans while offering a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience.

Seafood will become extinct within your lifetime.

How does that statement make you feel?

That idea made my stomach turn several years ago when marine biologists predicted that continual overfishing will result in the “collapse of all world fisheries” by the year 2048.

As an avid seafood lover, I once thought that I was doing the planet a favour by cutting down on my meat consumption—considering its heavy carbon footprint—and opting for marine-based protein. But it wasn’t until recent years that I’ve come to realize the truly distressed state of our oceans and how our food choices impact the delicate balance of life below the water’s surface.

Freshly shucked Bayne Sound scallop with warm dashi broth. A good sustainable seafood choice, according to Ocean Wise-partner Seafood Watch.

Freshly shucked Bayne Sound scallop with warm dashi broth. A good sustainable seafood choice, according to Ocean Wise-partner Seafood Watch.

With the outreach efforts of sustainable seafood organizations such as Ocean Wise, Canadian consumers are now better equipped to make sound dining decisions on the spot. The increasingly prominent Ocean Wise symbol is the Northern Star that point diners to sustainably harvested seafood on restaurant menus.

However, getting the message across on the consumer’s level alone is not enough, according to Shannon Ronalds, the co-founder of the School of Fish Foundation and the deviser of the world’s first floating dining room.

Shannon Ronalds, co-founder of the School of Fish Foundation.

Shannon Ronalds, co-founder of the School of Fish Foundation.

School of Fish Foundation’s mission

School of Fish Foundation is a non-profit organization that was co-founded by Ronalds and Chef Robert Clark of the ocean-friendly C Restaurant. Its mission is to reach chefs-in-training by implementing sustainable seafood education in culinary schools around the world. The logic is that chefs serve an exponentially greater number of meals and can make a deeper impact on this issue than informed consumers that only shop occasionally for seafood can. In addition, chefs also have a wider audience to reach out to regarding this immediate issue.

School of Fish Foundation’s Floating Dining Room serves up Northern BC Coho, Israeli couscous, Oyama chorizo, smashed pea and pea purée.

School of Fish Foundation’s Floating Dining Room serves up Northern BC Coho, Israeli couscous, Oyama chorizo, smashed pea and pea purée.

The foundation provides quality curriculum and practical hands-on training to prepare budding chefs that are about to step foot into the restaurant industry. The new chefs will be confidently equipped with skills and knowledge that are applicable across the global culinary stage. Another incentive for participating is that the graduates will have hiring-priority in the foundation’s many prestigious partner restaurants.

Empty plastic bottles support the world’s premiere floating dining room in False Creek.

Empty plastic bottles support the world’s premiere floating dining room in False Creek.

In order to present School of Fish’s mission as a tangible experience, Ronalds used his own pair of hands and bank savings to design and build a floating dining room with salvaged cedar and 1,675 plastic two-litre bottles. Yup, everyday pop-bottles comprise the room’s base—putting to use something that often is mindlessly tossed into the garbage or, worse, ends up in the oceans and the marine food chain.

The plastic bottles are not only physically supporting the restaurant’s structure, but also remind the public of how every bit of carelessly discarded refuse has a direct environmental impact.

A donated chandelier swings in the breeze.

A donated chandelier swings in the breeze.

The floating dining room is constructed entirely from “renewable, recycled, reclaimed and/or repurposed” materials and now lives on False Creek. It was touching to hear about all the sponsors that generously contributed to the construction and decoration.

Above all, the 12-seat dining table belongs to Ronalds and his wife to show their complete commitment to this project.

Table setting on SS Floating Dining Room.

Table setting on SS Floating Dining Room.

Floating on the sparkling False Creek waters while watching the sun set slowly over the Granville Street Bridge was nothing short of spectacular on its own. Add an exquisite feast of sustainable seafood and precisely paired biodynamic wines to the mix and the result is an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

An unforgettable dining experience with a gorgeous view of the sunset inside the restaurant.

An unforgettable dining experience with a gorgeous view of the sunset inside the restaurant.

On the night that I dined aboard the SS Floating Dining Room, the young and energetic Mr. and Mrs. Ronalds took matters into their own hands and entertained as both hosts and servers of the evening. In between each course, Shannon provided the background on the dishes’ ingredients and inspirations, as well as the reasoning behind each wine pairing.

Sustainably farmed Tilapia, wild Sockeye caviar, lobster saffron cream.

Sustainably farmed Tilapia, wild Sockeye caviar, lobster saffron cream.

Naturally, he couldn’t help but dive into details of how each seafood choice came into play from a sustainability perspective.

We’re no longer living in the simpler days of wild-versus-farmed seafood. Rather, Ronalds emphasized the importance of spotting the characteristics of ethical seafood farming. Inevitably, farmed seafood will have a stronghold in the market but it shouldn’t always be regarded as the lesser option.

Ronalds persuaded Chef Clark to include Indonesian Tilapia on the menu to reinforce the message that responsibly farmed fish should not be neglected. Instead, such efforts should be supported so that more farmers will be motivated to step up their game.

BC spot prawn sunomono, trap caught.

BC spot prawn sunomono, trap caught.

Chef Clark executed each dish with methodical preparation. His simple, yet elegant cooking approach upheld the flavour and textural integrity of each seafood variety.

The BC spot prawn sunomono featured two trap-caught prawns that were frozen at sea to preserve the succulent texture. A light vinaigrette and a fine julienne of crisp vegetables were all that was required to make the dish shine.

Juicy local berries to satiate the sweet tooth.

Juicy local berries to satiate the sweet tooth.

As evening fell, the kitchen prepared two last delectable courses using locally sourced ingredients. Celebrating the Okanagan berry harvest, the pastry chef prepared a local berry feuille made with crisp, phylo pastry. And a savoury cheese plate was served alongside to wrap up the inspiring and delicious evening.

This unique event is held nightly until the end of September. Seating in the private dining room is limited to 12 and are expected to sell out quickly. The revolving six-course menu with wine-pairings is priced at $216 per person.

To support this meaningful cause, secure your spot by calling 778-997-6977 or emailing contact@schooloffishfoundation.org.


This article was originally posted on Granville Magazine on August 11, 2010.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

  • http://www.chefs-resources.com Chefs Resources

    Focusing on teaching sustainability to the new generation of Chefs coming out the culinary schools is a very wise, long term decision. Ronalds & Clark have an excellent concept, and Chef Clark’s food is very well executed.

  • http://www.thecattylife.com catty

    The thought of seafood diminishing in our life time scares the hell outta me, but you’re right, everyone has the perception that cutting down meat is the way to go. I guess the way to be is to eat sustainably, whatever it is. Great photos of your sustainable meal :)

  • http://www.gratineeblog.com Darina

    This is a great article. I have also begun to rely on seafood as a main protein but with some awareness that it’s not the answer. This is a great program

  • Melody Fury

    Catty – yup, and being responsible and conscious our carbon footprint :) but we always manage to keep it delicious!

  • Melody Fury

    Chefs – oh for sure. Always been a fan of Rob’s food and he’s a super approachable guy too. Great things always start small…