The Tennessee Aquarium had an unusual species on display this morning, the rare television chef.
TV Chef Alton Brown is in Chattanooga to help kick off the launch of the Aquarium’s “Serve & Protect” campaign, a project to promote sustainable seafood.
“One-third of all fished species have collapsed globally,” said Dr. Anna George, director of the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute. “That means that these fish are now at least 90 percent below their historic maximum populations. The time to act has come if we want the ocean to remain healthy.”
So the Aquarium is collaborating with celebrity chef Alton Brown to launch, “Serve & Protect,” a new seafood program designed to offer some tasty solutions. “Working as a chef and working on television, I know the number one answer to this problem is education,” Brown said. “Americans tend to eat a lot of a very few fish species. And there’s a lot more flavor available out there than just tuna, salmon and grouper.”
That’s why Brown is excited to be working on a locally-focused sustainable seafood effort that begins at the Aquarium. Visitors will learn about select species on display and then discover new ways to prepare these seafood offerings at home. Brown is developing recipes specifically for this program and providing information about how to purchase sustainable seafood at local markets. This see it, buy it, cook it and eat it approach may raise some eyebrows at first. “Hopefully this will bring people to the point where they’re not only involved with understanding the fish, their habitats and what is sustainable, but then we’ll start putting food on the plate that hasn’t been there before,” Brown said. “It’s about opening doors rather than closing them. Instead of saying, ‘You can’t have THAT,’ I like to ask, ‘Have you tried this?’”
Serve & Protect will officially begin on Thursday, September 22nd with an evening of fun, fine wine and fabulous sustainable seafood. Guests will enjoy appetizers in the IMAX Great Hall provided by Greenlife Grocery. Next, Brown will host a live cooking demonstration in the IMAX 3D Theater. Then, an elegant seafood dinner, prepared by chefs from some of Chattanooga’s finest restaurants, will be served within the Aquarium. Aquarium experts, chefs and local growers will provide additional insight about the meal.
Friday, September 23rd and Saturday, September 24th a Chattanooga “dine around” is planned. Local chefs will put their own special touch on recipes that feature the highlighted species in the inaugural program. Brown believes this opportunity to connect with area restaurants is an important step to sustainability. “I will be working with all of the chefs and wait staffs, because a lot of the selling of sustainable seafood is in the education and narrative,” Brown said. “Then we’re going to turn it over to these chefs to put their creativity on display and show the real culinary possibilities of these fish.”
Brown will wrap up this sustainable seafood school at the Chattanooga Market on Sunday, September 25th by hosting the Cast Iron Cook-off. This annual event challenges chefs to purchase ingredients from local farmers at the market and then prepare a dish on site within a specified time. They are provided the protein, which in this case will be a sustainable seafood item. Brown is excited about seeing the results of this fish frenzy in front of the Market crowd.
Beyond the ocean conservation messages, Brown also plans to serve up information highlighting the health benefits of sustainably caught seafood. “Obesity is the number one killer of people in the United States. And I think the answer to that is to eat more seafood.” Brown said. “It’s a better source of protein than what Americans are used to.”
To learn more about the Aquarium’s Protect & Serve program, go to: http://tnaqua.org/SustainableSeafood.aspx