Culinary Sustainability: An Evening of Food and Fun

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What better way to learn about sustainable seafood than by eating hand-crafted sea-to-table meals prepared by top chefs?

Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego treated members of its Director’s Circle to a unique culinary event featuring sustainable seafood, fruits, vegetables, and other produce on Oct. 29 at the Robert Paine Scripps Seaside Forum for Science, Society and the Environment.

The event was held as a way to say “thank you” to members of the Scripps Director’s Circle, which includes individuals, foundations, corporations, and other organizations that have made donations or commitments to Scripps totaling $100,000 or more.

“All of you have made a very substantial commitment to Scripps Oceanography and this evening is our way to show you how grateful we are for your support,” said Scripps Director Margaret Leinen during her welcoming remarks. “I’m joined here by many members of the faculty and by students—all of whom have benefitted directly from your support—and they join me in celebrating you and in thanking you for everything that you do for us.”

Five well-known chefs from the San Diego region participated in the event, each with an open workstation featuring a sustainably harvested dish.

“I love the ocean, I love Scripps Oceanography, and anytime I have an opportunity to help, I do,” said participating chef Andrew Spurgin, owner of Bespoke Event Styling and Menu Design and a catalyst who helped make the event possible.

Spurgin’s sustainable dish featured fresh sea urchin (uni) that was caught off Point Loma the day before, presented on a bed of persimmon and avocado with nopales, red ogo, several types of kelp, and toasted marcona almonds.

Other mouth-watering dishes included spiny lobster tacos with jalapeño slaw, tomato mint salsa, and chipotle drizzle on a housemade corn tortilla (created by Trey Foshee, executive chef of George’s and Galaxy Taco); wood-charred sweet potatoes with pistachio pesto and pickled fall vegetables (by Chad White, executive chef at La Justina and Común); Baja hiramasa yellowtail with chiles, coconut drizzle, and lime juice (by Javier Plascencia, executive chef at Bracero, Misión 19, and Finca Altozano); and for dessert, sweet corn tres leches with vanilla bean-chile anglaise (by Mary Kay Waters, chef and owner of Waters Fine Catering).

Attendees had the opportunity to speak with the chefs directly to learn about the menu items and to discuss the importance of sustainability in our food, ecosystems, and environment.

“Food is a very individual choice, and whether people want to be sustainable or whether they want to be carnivores or pescetarians, it’s a very personal choice, and that has to do with how we’ve been raised. Hopefully this event will encourage people to think sustainably,” said Steve Strachan, event attendee and chair of the Scripps Director’s Council.

With such a wide array of sustainable food, there was a little something for everyone to enjoy.  As a vegan, Strachan thoroughly enjoyed Chef Chad White’s sweet potato dish. “It was fabulous—I had three of them!” he said.

Guests had the opportunity to get their hands wet at the California Sea Grant booth, which featured a tub brimming with live, freshly caught sea urchin, kelp, crab, and other local marine creatures. Scripps Oceanography/California Sea Grant Extension Specialist Theresa Sinicrope Talley was on hand to discuss the benefits of eating locally caught seafood, an effort made easier for San Diegans with the newly opened Tuna Harbor Dockside Market.

Scripps scientists Octavio Aburto-Oropeza, Amro Hamdoun, Chambers Hughes, Lisa Levin, Jen McWhorter, Brice Semmens, Julie Thomas, and a handful of graduate students were also on hand to discuss marine research and issues related to the health of the oceans, an important field of study as Scripps and UC San Diego strive to better understand and protect the planet.

“This is an exciting time at UC San Diego. As we study this amazing planet, we are also looking at what we can do to provide solutions for the future of the planet and our relationship to it,” said Leinen. “This sustainability theme, this neutrality theme, this theme of conservation, this theme of resilience—all of these resonate deeply here at Scripps and deeply at UC San Diego.”

Scripps would like to thank all the participating chefs, in addition to the following partners, for making this event possible:

Baja Seas, Baja Wine Food, Catalina Offshore Products, Janice Dodge, Planet Rooth, Specialty Produce, Tuna Harbor Dockside Market, and Carlsbad Aquafarms.

And a special thank you to the Scripps Director’s Circle members for their generous support and for continuing the Scripps legacy.

Brittany Hook

Related Image Gallery: Sea-to-Table Director's Circle Event

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