Lure is the latest project from Chef Ned Bell. He’s the founder of Chefs for Oceans, who, in 2014, cycled across Canada. He took time out from his post as executive chef of Vancouver’s Four Seasons to raise awareness for seafood sustainability. Since then he’s been even busier with a big career move. And spent a couple of years co-writing this book with Valerie Howes.

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that Lure is the most important cookbook of the year, if not the decade.

It’s a real winner.

Let me explain why.

 

Staying the course

Ned is teaching us all by his example. While most people in food and beverage would have been more than content with his lot, he was not. As executive chef of Vancouver’s Four Seasons Hotel, he was set. He had it made. I’m guessing that, given the resounding success of Yew Restaurant, he could have pretty well charted his own course, with a string of increasingly high profile postings. Instead, he decided to stick with his passion. That is, pure and simply, building awareness for seafood sustainability.

Bell says joining Ocean Wise almost 18 months ago, as executive chef, was “the best decision I ever made.”

At the time he asked himself:

“How can I continue to engage and advocate for what is, truthfully, the most important conversation in my world—healthy oceans?”

“I couldn’t be a more proud advocate for Ocean Wise. As the executive chef, I get to live my dream of championing healthy oceans,” he says.

Bell says he’s doing it for his family—for all our families—and for future generations to always have access to well managed fisheries and responsible aquaculture.

I could go on. But all you need do is go find yourself a copy and you’ll soon understand just how driven this guy is.

And how right he is.

 

So, why is Lure so important?

There are forests of cookbooks out there. Some are wickedly good, others not so much. We’ve become accustomed to the cookbook as an essential weapon in the ‘personality’ chef’s arsenal. You could argue there wouldn’t be much to Lure without Ned Bell. But this cookbook is the farthest thing from an ego trip. And it’s much more than a brand building exercise for Chefs for Oceans.

We’ve all seen those tomes with glossy pics and the recipes that take a day to figure out—and maybe a small mortgage to boot. Not this book.

Lure cookbook wild salmon recipe with heirloom tomato jam

Lure wild salmon with heirloom tomato jam and kale cashew pesto / TP shot of Kevin Clark image

Lure is about as down-home, practical and no-nonsense a cookbook as you could buy. Part sustainable primer, part comprehensive West Coast seafood guide, it’s also a potent and sincere call to action.

“Passion projects are difficult,” says Ned.

“When you believe in something that is bigger than yourself, it’s so powerful.

“I didn’t want to do a book for my ego, I wanted a book that has purpose.”

“This book will get more Canadians cooking sustainable seafood at home—get more Canadians involved in healthy oceans.”

 

The Need to Change

In Vancouver, The Fish Counter's Mike McDermid (l) and Robert Clark are fully committed to sustainable seafood

The Fish Counter’s Mike McDermid (l) and Robert Clark, fully committed to sustainable seafood

For me, Lure is a progression, the logical sequence in a movement that started with a ripple in 2005, when a group of Vancouver chefs decided to take a stand on over -fishing.

Bell is quick to acknowledge the leadership of (then C chef) Robert Clark, who kick-started Ocean Wise with the Vancouver Aquarium. Motivated by his experience at C Restaurant, Clark encouraged others, such as Blue Water’s Frank Pabst to join him.

A little perspective: in its time, C was cutting edge. Clark and owner Harry Kambolis at the time took a huge risk by opening a seafood only restaurant. The sustainable mantra came soon after as C worked more directly with fishers and responsible suppliers.

In the same way, Lure is equally edgy—and timely: it’s entirely and only about seafood.

Says Bell, “I’m tired of going to my local grocery store and seeing that the vast majority of the protein choices are meat. I’ve not included as much as an ounce of steak or a strip of pork-based bacon in this recipes. Let’s all ask our local store managers for more ocean-friendly seafood choices.—that’s how we bring about change.”

 

Hooked on Lure

Lure cookbook shellfish

Lure is a beautifully designed book

What works in particular for me is the layout. First there’s a heartfelt introduction, a litany of many truths.

But if Lure is about anything it’s about the power to be daring and different.

“In North America,” says Bell, “We’re so fixated on the big four—cod, tuna, salmon and shrimp—that we risk consuming these species to the point of no return.”

What he’s done with Lure is give us no end of delicious reasons to break out of that habit.

I also like the way the book is segmented into fish types, from white fish to fatty fish and shellfish. There’s even a section on sea greens. (Yes, eat your seaweed! It’s good for you.) And there’s a quick guide on how to buy and cook fish.

Hint: it’s easy. Well, at least the cooking part is. As Ned says above, our supermarkets have a long way to go.

Lure cookbook Pacific Paella in pan

Lure Pacific Paella / TP shot of Kevin Clark image

More than that, though, the recipes are straight-forward and well laid out. The book is also beautifully designed (by Jessica Sullivan) with excellent photography (Kevin Clark).

This is the kind of book that, much like my well worn Larousse, will be right on my kitchen counter front line.

There are so many creative, fun and tasty recipes here, I don’t know where to start. How about Spot Prawn Ceviche with lime and chili, Mussel and Maple Chowder? Or roasted Lingcod with white beans and celery root?

I think what I’ll do is pick a species and learn all about it, working my way through the recipes as I go. My guess is it will take me the best part of a year. And that’s just fine with me.

This guy likes sustainable seafood, too, especially Herring, which is why he’s not looking at me…

Onwards

Lure cookbook coverBell likens the sustainable seafood movement to the organic movement of 20 years ago.

“I’m hoping, in less than a decade, Sustainable seafood will be the only conversation we’re having.”

But, most of all, he says, “What a gift and a privilege to still be able to eat wild seafood—let’s never lose sight of that.”

Indeed.

 

Lure (hardcover with 240 delicious, sustainably packed pages) is published by Figure.1 —widely available for Cdn $38.95 or US $ 32.95, including at Amazon.