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P A C I F I C / P R A I R I E February 2015 Vol. 21 No. 1












$ 5 . 9 5


Ned Bell

Executive chef, Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver

NEWSMAKER OF THE YEAR The PRN Newsmaker of the Year award recognizes achievements that have positive effects on the hospitality and foodservice industries and is presented at the Canadian Association of Foodservice Professionals’ B.C. Top Leadership Night. By Kristen Smith, Associate Editor

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ed Bell took the case for sustainable seafood across the country last year cycling more than 8,700 kilometres from St. John’s, N.L., to Vancouver. The executive chef for Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver kick-started Chefs for Oceans, reaching out to local champions of sustainable seafood and holding 24 events over the course of 10 weeks to bolster awareness both in the community and in the restaurant industry. An event in every province, each was unique but the message was always the same: healthy oceans, lakes and rivers through responsible fishing methods and aquaculture. The idea for the non-profit organization was born at the 2012 Canadian Chefs’ Congress in Halifax. “We were having this conversation in individual provinces, in regions and communities, but we weren’t having it on a national scale,” says Bell. The Penticton, B.C.-born chef spent much of his time growing up in the Okanagan Valley. “I guess that’s where I got my love of food, because my parents had a farm. We were involved in the wine business in the early days — my dad was a hydroponic fruit and vegetable grower,” says Bell. When Bell was 12, his parents separated. His mom was “working her tail off ” and after frozen lasagna dinners grew tiresome, Bell says he starting cooking for his younger brother and sister and recognized the power of food. “I realized young that it brought us together; we spent time around the table as siblings,” says Bell. “I really fell in love with the aspect of people and food and how it brings families and friends together. To this day, one of the things that I love the most is the people aspect of it, whether it’s my team in the kitchen, or my customers in the restaurant or cooking for friends.”

Bell considers himself lucky to know he wanted to be a chef at a young age. His first job was washing dishes at Avenue Grille in Vancouver’s Kerrisdale neighbourhood at the age of 14 and after high school, he attended Dubrulle French Culinary School. His instructor and friend Rob Feenie inspired Bell to apprentice at Le Crocodile, where he met a culinary mentor Michel Jacob. “One of the reasons that I’ve been in the places that I’ve been is because of the foundation that he helped to build in my career,” says Bell. When Feenie left in 1995 to open Lumière, Bell came over as sous chef. He took his first executive chef position two years later in Toronto’s Accolade and worked in the province until moving to Murrieta’s Bar & Grill in Calgary where he also spent three years working with the Vintage Group. In 2008, Bell opened Cabana Bar & Grill after moving to Kelowna, B.C., the year prior and sold it in 2014. “This opportunity with Four Seasons was unique to me because I wasn’t a hotel chef. It was a real learning experience and learning curve, having spent most of my career in restaurants,” says Bell. In 2011, Bell was brought on to take over foodservice for the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver including its YEW seafood + bar. When Bell joined the property, the hotel changed YEW’s concept from West Coast continental to seafood-centric. Bell’s mission was to make the luxury hotel fully Ocean Wise certified. “You don’t meet a chef these days worth their salt that isn’t engaged in where their food is from,” says Bell. “I guess you call my food ocean-totable, but really I’m not just about the three oceans that surround our country. I’m about healthy lakes, oceans and rivers and land-based, closed containment aquaculture.”

Bell hopes to create a day to celebrate sustainable seafood from coast to coast, with the “audacious goal” of having sustainable seafood accessible to every Canadian within the next decade. “Chefs have a unique opportunity and, quite honestly, a responsibility to educate ourselves and our customers and our cooks about where our food comes from and how it was caught, raised, farmed, harvested, or gathered,” says Bell. “Let’s be honest, we’re addicted to cheap. We all are, myself included. We love to go and get the deal, we love to go out and buy the cheapest, but we really don’t think about where it came from.”

He says the work of Chefs for Oceans is just beginning. “The platform that I have as the executive chef of the Four Seasons here in Vancouver is an extraordinary one and it’s not lost on me,” says Bell, noting his peers at Four Seasons properties around the world are all people he can connect with. “It’s not Ned for oceans, it’s Chefs for Oceans, because it’s all of my peers who need to engage their friends and customers through their own restaurants or hotels,” he says. “I feed thousands of people a week, I can educate thousands of people in however small way and chefs across Canada can do the same. That’s

my call to action,” he says. “We’re going to have to do this eventually. We can’t continue to just take and take and take; it will run out, period, full stop. Look what happened to the cod. Imagine if that happened on the West Coast and we lost our five wild salmon species? People would freak out, but for some bizarre reason we continue abuse and use.” He says consumers care about supporting local food more than ever, and sees that moving in the direction of sustainable seafood. “I know I’m on the crest of a wave here, but I also know that 10 years from now, this is the only conversation we’ll be having.”

Pacific/Prairie Restaurant News - February 2015  
Pacific/Prairie Restaurant News - February 2015