After the wonderful, thought-provoking cooking demonstrations at the Cooking for Solutions event, I wandered into the Monterey Bay Aquarium. As part of the weekend's events, there was a Sustainable Foods Information Fair inside the Aquarium and out on the deck overlooking Monterey Bay. Aquarium-goers were treated to a variety of booths, talks, and cooking demonstrations by some outstanding chefs, including Rick Moonen, Jesse Ziff Cool, and Sam Choy, all of whom are leaders in the local and sustainable foods movement.
I wandered out to the deck, where there were a number of tents set up by Whole Foods Market, and a Viking cooking station and grill for the demos. Chef Rick Moonen of RM Seafood at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas was getting ready to start his demo, and joked around with the crowd. Chef Moonen is a featured chef on Top Chef Masters, where established, world-renowned chefs compete for the title of "Top Chef Master."
Moonen recently released a new cookbook called Fish Without a Doubt: The Cook's Essential Companion, the product of four years of work applying his culinary expertise to making preparing seafood at home less daunting for the average cook. He was passionate about seafood, sustainability, and the debt that people owe to the oceans. I bought a copy of the book, since my husband recently converted to a semi-vegetarian to lower his cholesterol levels. I've never been particularly good at cooking fish, but I aim to try it out. The recipes look fantastic, and hopefully I will get over my fear of fish with this book.
Chef Moonen, like the three chefs I saw in the morning, was an engaging, charming speaker with a passion for his craft. He prepared a grilled salmon with a homemade barbecue sauce that we all got to try, that was just delicious. His secret weapon? Clam juice, which he claims could "cover up a multitude of sins" in the kitchen.
Local heroine Chef Jesse Ziff Cool did a quick demonstration of a simple, seasonal salad using fresh strawberries with the gorgeous backdrop of the Bay behind her. She invited some kids from the audience to come down to help toss the salad, after assuring that their hands were clean.
Chef Jesse Cool is a local legend, with two restaurants and a catering company near where I live. Her restaurant, Flea Street Cafe in Menlo Park, is a mainstay of local, organic food done in a fine-dining setting. She also runs the Cool Cafe at the Cantor Arts Museum at Stanford, one of my favorite lunch places, where you can hang out among the Rodin sculptures while feasting on tasty, healthy, locally grown food. I met her once a few years ago at our community bake sale for Hurricane Katrina, and have enjoyed her food for years.
Chef Cool is the author of a number of cookbooks, including The Really, Truly, Honest-to-Goodness One-Pot Cookbook and Simply Organic: A Cookbook for Sustainable, Seasonal, and Local Ingredients. After their demos, both Cool and Moonen were on hand to sign copies of their books.
After the demo, I wandered around the booths at the fair, sampling various cheeses, fruits, vegetables, and seafood prepared by the vendors. Whole Foods Market had set up a craft station for kids, and there were quite a few kids walking around wearing chef's toques they had colored and decorated themselves.
Some of the vendors represented at the Sustainable Food Fair:
- The Abalone Farm, Inc.
- Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute
- American Tuna, Inc.
- BLUE Ocean Film Festival & Conservation Summit
- CAFF: Community Alliance with Family Farmers
- California Aquaculture Association
- The Catfish Institute
- Clover Stornetta Farms
- Coastal Living
- Earthbound Farm
- The Faces of California Fishing
- Institute for Fisheries Resources
- Commercial Fishermen of America
- Kaiser Permanente
- Le Crueset
- Marine Stewardship Council
- Rustic Bakery
- Slow Food USA
- Western Fishboat Owners Assoication
- Wild Planet Foods