RICHMOND, Va. — There’s a whole world just below the surface of the water, a complex ecosystem that houses over one million known species of plants and animals, including the fish and shellfish that end up on our dinner tables.
But at what cost do we plumb the depths for our favorite bluefin tuna, skate wing, or swordfish? The international nonprofit Slow Food urges us to take a deeper look at the impact fishing has on our waters by investigating where our fish comes from and by what means in a movement called Slow Fish.
To that end, Slow Food RVA will host a Slow Fish feast at Shagbark on Saturday, November 5 with an incredible line-up of chefs including Shagbark’s Walter Bundy; Brittanny Anderson of Metzger Bar & Butchery; Acacia’s Dale Reitzer; Lewis Family Chef J Frank; Caleb Shriver and Phillip Perrow of Dutch & Co; and Patrick Phelan; Megan Phelan, and Andrew Manning of Longoven.
“Slow Fish is important to me as a chef because it represents how I like to cook, how I think about food and its connection to people,” Longoven chef Andrew Manning said. “As a chef, you need to do more than just cook. You need to help educate people about food, products, sustainability, waste, and supporting the smaller local guy who’s doing things the right way.”
“Our connection to Slow Fish really starts with the Chesapeake Bay watershed,” Slow Food RVA chair John Haddad said. “Over the last couple years, a lot more prominence has been placed on our proximity and our responsibility for taking care of that particular natural resource. Part of that is our responsibility as consumers to buy local fish and local oysters.”
Haddad credits the oyster farmers for helping to restore the bay and bring back its natural ecosystem.
At a Slow Fish conference in New Orleans in March, Haddad heard a jaw-dropping statistic:
90 percent of the fish we eat in the US is imported, and of that, only about 2 percent is inspected.*
Manning said the Slow Fish chefs will be using seafood exclusively from local sources, including shrimp from North Carolina, Chesapeake eels, plus sugar toads, rockfish, and bluefish all caught in local waters.
The dinner is a kick-off for a Slow Fish event on Sunday at Ardent Craft Ales, which will feature a slew of Virginia oysters and small plates from the likes of Sugar’s Crab Shack, Mean Bird, Lehja, East Coast Provisions and more. That event is free to attend, with pay-as-you-go food options and, of course, beer.
The money raised by these two fundraisers will go back into the community, with a push for education and grant funding. Haddad said that means bringing more educational resources to Richmond, for chefs and consumers alike, as well as supporting a microgrant program that gives funds to people doing work around these issues.
“It would be great if people could walk away not just thinking what a great night, but start thinking a little more on a daily basis what they can do to support our local farmers, fishermen, oystermen, and to take care of and to take pride in our local resources,” Manning noted.
“Hopefully people will start paying more attention to what they are buying and where it’s coming from, how it’s being produced, caught or treated and try more to support the guys that are doing it correctly. We all need to eat, drink, and live better!”
Slow Fish All-Star Dinner
Saturday, November 5
Slow Fish 2016
Sunday, November 6
Ardent Craft Ales
Stephanie’s company, The Apple Cart, works with dozens of food businesses in the Richmond area. Some of them may appear in her articles. To see what businesses Stephanie works with, visit The Apple Cart’s website.
Stephanie’s food columns will appear regularly on WTVR.com.