This is a really difficult post to write.
Generally I believe that if you don’t have anything nice to say you shouldn’t say anything. In this case I’m not writing to be malicious but to share a conflict in values. I’ve been on Prince Edward Island for a few days now in an attempt to see as much time as I can outside working. From a food perspective, Charlottetown has really surprised me. There are some great modern options and the island that boasts it produces Canada’s best ice cream no longer needs to rely on that for culinary credentials.
After my cooking boot camp learning how to put a lobster to sleep, Chef Ilona Daniel recommended Terre Rouge and there Chef Dave Mottershall told me the best chef on the island was Chef Gordon Bailey at Lot 30. And so last night I went and had fantastic food. The restaurant front of house is run by the chef’s wife, Traci, who is incredibly nice and so down to earth. After the meal I asked if I could take a photo of the chef in the kitchen and everyone was happy to oblige.
And because of this I’m so disappointed at what happened next.
After a quick chat he asked me if I wanted to capture his philosophy for the restaurant on video.
This is where it gets really bad.
Have a look.
I wasn’t struck by his disdain for helping diners connect the meal on their table to farmers on the island. What disturbed me was that he was proud to serve bluefin tuna.
Bluefin tuna is not recommended by Ocean Wise. When I asked him about it he said that it is heavily regulated and his suppliers have licenses, which I am sure is true.
But bluefin tuna has been severely overfished driving critically low numbers. Despite it being delicious many people (including many chefs) believe there should be a moratorium. And while he referenced “PEI bluefin” this species is migratory, ambitiously so and are known to travel from North America to Europe multiple times a year.
Sustainable fish choices are complicated. Even within tuna some types are more sustainable than others so I often recommend using either the Ocean Wise iPhone app or the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch App which is available in Android. I try to support restaurants that have share my food values and I spend a lot of time reading about food. But most people don’t and this is where I think chefs come in because most people ordering bluefin tuna from the menu likely don’t realize it’s unsustainable.
I didn’t enter a debate with Chef Gordon. He was very kind to me and it’s not for me to question his ethics when I’m a guest in his kitchen.
But it has left me uneasy.
Here is a restaurant with fantastic staff and delicious food but ultimately I believe we create the world we want by making choices with our pocketbook. Lot 30 does not need to confirm to my ideals. It’s their kitchen they can do what they like with it. If we hadn’t had the conversation I would have recommended Lot 30 with gusto but now as great as the food is. I can never eat there again knowing I’m supporting a business contrary to my own values.
And with PEI having so many fantastic seafood options I think back to the last portion of the video where he says:
…challenge ourselves to make like the best that we can from what we’re offered.
The best of what we’re offered is not unsustainable fish. Prince Edward Island is much better than that.