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January 27, 2010
Not Just Your Usual School of Fish

It's not that anyone should actually need a good reason to jet off to Paris, but Harry Kambolis and Shannon Ronalds have two.

Kambolis, the owner of three top-rated Vancouver restaurants (C restaurant, Raincity Grill, and nu restaurant + lounge), and Ronalds, Kambolis' business associate in the Contemporary Ocean Products line of sustainable food items, will be flying out Thursday morning to attend the international SeaFood Summit, held this year in the "City of Lights". (Yes, we restrained ourselves from giving this article the title:"Something's Fishy in Paris".)

The world capital of fashion, fine food and frolic will no doubt offer plenty of distraction, but the two men have more serious agendas in mind. Beyond discussing global environmental concerns with the Summit's 130 participating academics, scientists and business professionals, they will be promoting their newly launched sustainability project  -- a proposal that could begin the successful work of Ocean Wise (recruiting chefs and restaurants in the campaign to use only non threatened species of seafood), one stage earlier by bringing the message straight into the culinary education system. 

Created as a non profit organization, The School of Fish Foundation aims to implement a seafood sustainability awareness course of study in professional training academies throughout the world. The goal -- for graduation from the program to become a mandatory requirement towards certification as a professional chef. And beyond that, for restaurants to commit to only hiring interns who have successfully completed it.

The idea is based on more than the desire to instill good habits in chefs while they are young. It's typical for culinary graduates to circle the globe as they serve out the apprenticeship phase of their education. Often they end up employed by some of the most influential kitchens in the world.  By working with marine conservation organizations to provide the scientific data and other subject materials for the curriculum, the Foundation hopes that they can impress students with a philosophy that will not only stay with them throughout the course of their careers, but also inspire them to be global culinary ambassadors for responsible decisions about how we eat now and how we will need to change our dining choices to protect the future. 

Harry Kambolis' C restaurant was a founding member of the Ocean Wise campaign to convert Vancouver restaurants to a commitment to seafood sustainability, and his executive chef, Robert Clark, has long been on a mission to expand his teachings to chefs outside of his own restaurants and beyond the Canadian westcoast region. They firmly believe that the way to advocate significant change is to start at the very beginning, with the culinary schools.

The Seafood Summit in Paris, with its proximity to the top culinary academies in France, will present an excellent opportunity to launch these ideas into the water and see if they float, so to speak. And while they are pursuing that end, they will also be trying to lure conference organizers into holding the 2011 event in Vancouver.  Apparently, the selection committee has already narrowed down the options to two cities: our own, and Monterey Bay, California.

To support the case for Vancouver, Kambolis and Ronalds will be going armed with a list of locally based initiatives and/or experts who would act as moderators for topics regarding sustainable seafood. Look for Ocean Wise, EcoTrust, Tourism Vancouver, SeaChoice, and UBC Fisheries to contribute to the think tank for suitable topics of debate, as well as ideas for extra curricular activities (such as touring the Steveston Wharves or taking a trip to Save On Foods for a SeaChoice labeling demonstration). The two have also asked General Motors to donate zero-emission transportation options for the event’s delegates.

Like any other work of good intention however, neither initiative will swim without sufficient funding, so another goal for the Kambolis/Ronalds tag team will be to meet with potential sponsors at the Summit. They stand a very good chance of being heard. Along with such powerful voices as Greenpeace, UNESCO, Sea Choice Alliances and WWF, C restaurant was invited to be present due to the progress that it has made influencing consumer views and choices in its home town of Vancouver.

As Shannon Ronalds has stated, a restaurant being an agent for social change "is somewhat of a new thing in France".

Let's wish them good luck. Shannon has promised that if he gets a moment from the busy schedule, and can find an internet link up, he will try to report in from the Summit to let us know how things are progressing. Stay tuned.

The School of Fish Foundation can be followed here:
Facebook: School of Fish Foundation

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Copyright Cityfood Magazine 2009