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Monterey Bay Aquarium's Cooking for Solutions

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© Monterey Bay Aquarium/Randy Wilder
The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Outer Bay exhibit.

With the seemingly unstoppable oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, there has never been a better time to talk about sustainable seafood than right this moment. Luckily, this happens to be the weekend that the Monterey Bay Aquarium hosts their sensational annual event, Cooking for Solutions. Earlier this week, I met with Ken Peterson, the aquarium’s PR director, who told me what CFS events he’s especially looking forward to, plus general thoughts about the state of sustainable seafood right now.

* On whether the oil spill will dominate the conversation this weekend: “Probably, but in passing. It’s big. It’s a tragedy. But it’s a regionalized disaster. Fishing practices and ecological change are the long-term problems that we’re focusing on. But I’ll say this: It couldn’t have happened at a worse time. Everything is spawning: bluefin tuna, blue crab, shrimp; sea turtles are trying to swim through oil right now to lay eggs.”

* On the CFS gala dinner: “We have 120 chefs and wineries serving sustainable and organic food and wines. Suzanne Goin is our chef of the year; Rick Bayless is being honored, too. Top Chef’s Kevin Gillespie will be barbecuing seafood. Everyone gets so fired up. John Cleese might be there; he’s a big fan of the aquarium.”  

* On the CFS panels he’s most excited about: “Well, they’re all great. But I always love Stories of Sustainability [moderated by F&W’s excellent contributor Jane Black]. We’ve got great presenters like Ingrid Bengis [Thomas Keller’s fishmonger] and Michel Nischan. He's a thought leader. There are always some stories of hope from that panel.”



* On how many Seafood Watch Guides have been distributed: 34 million. “Every DVD of Happy Feet had one—that was 9 million copies. Alton Brown carries one in his pocket; he said it changed his life. And our new iPhone app already has 200,000 downloads.

* On recent positive trends in seafood farming: “We’re seeing a lot of arctic char in place of farmed salmon. And in Washington state, Sweet Spring is doing a good job of successfully farming coho salmon in fresh water. And Target has banned farmed farmed salmon from its stores. That's a great positive statement. ”

* On what chefs and culinary professionals can do: Sign the Save Our Seafood pledge, just like Goin, Nischan, Michelle Bernstein and Rick Moonen have done.
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Congratulations to Nicholas Elmi, winner of Top Chef: New Orleans, the 11th season of Bravo's Emmy-Award winning, hit reality series.

Already looking forward to next year (June 19-21, 2015)? Relive your favorite moments from the culinary world's most sensational weekend in the Rocky Mountains.