New Zealand-born celebrity chef and restaurateur Bobby Chinn is slated to cook up a storm using responsibly-caught seafood at a number of Bali restaurants during The Coral Triangle Day on June 9. The regional celebration— which will be held simultaneously at different locations around the Coral Triangle region, including Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and other countries in the Pacific—aims to highlight the ecological importance of the Coral Triangle region and the need for ocean conservation in general.
Currently based in Hanoi, Vietnam, where he runs Restaurant Bobby Chinn Hanoi and the recently opened Bobby Chinn Saigon, the charismatic chef will be making special appearances and conducting cooking demonstrations at Seminyak restaurants including Gado Gado and Metis, in Uluwatu at the Semara Luxury Villa Resort, as well as local village restaurants in Kedonganan in Jimbaran Bay.
DestinAsian caught up with Chinn ahead of his Indonesian visit to find out more about his culinary creations and the message behind the new event.
Why did you decide to get involved in The Coral Triangle Day?
The Coral Triangle is the most biodiverse marine region on the planet. It’s a mere one percent of the ocean’s surface but contains more than 75 percent of the world’s known species of reef-building corals. It also contains more than 3,000 species of reef fish, many of which feed the world’s appetite for seafood, fuelling thousands businesses and supporting millions of people in terms of food and income.
The sad reality is that the Coral Triangle is struggling to cope with increasing demands on its finite resources. Overfishing, destructive fishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing are having an impact on the Coral Triangle’s fish stocks, which in the end might compromise the food and livelihoods of millions of people who depend on them much more than consumers in far-away places.
The Coral Triangle Day is about celebrating the wonders of our oceans and what individuals can do to help protect it. As a chef, I would like to do my part by helping raise awareness about the importance of patronizing restaurants that serve responsibly-caught seafood.
To mark the occasion, you will be preparing dishes using responsibly-caught seafood. What does this term refer to?
Responsibly-caught seafood refers to marine products that have been fished in ways that do not harm the environment. This means that the fishermen or fishing companies that provide such products adhere to the accepted standards in responsible fishing. This means that no destructive means were used in catching the fish and that fishers or fishing companies have traceability systems in place—meaning all the fish they catch are accounted for and regulated by government standards.
What can the average person do to help the situation?
The average person can simply be more conscious of the seafood on their plate and start asking questions about where it was caught and how it was caught. More often than not, retailers will not know the answers to these but if more and more consumers start asking such questions, more retailers will be compelled to provide the needed information on the origins of their seafood products and whether they were caught responsibly or not. WWF has come out with helpful guides that teach consumers to choose seafood products in a more responsible manner. There are different seafood guides available for each country.
Have you tried Balinese food yet? What do you think?
I love Bali and love some of the dishes. I think I first visited Bali 12 years ago and I took a Bumbu Bali cooking class. I learned a lot that day because the class was very small. I begged the chef to teach me on a more personal level instead of just learning a bunch of dishes. I actually got to learn in a restaurant setting as I helped to prepare restaurant dishes, so basically I ended up learning a whole lot more than I bargained for. I like the food a lot, especially the bebek tutu (Balinese duck)
Tell me about your new restaurant in Saigon?
Well, it’s in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City in District 1 and it only opened on May 5. We tried to be environmentally friendly, so we invested heavily in energy efficient equipment and lights, used mostly local materials, and we don’t sell bottled water. We actually serve filtered alkaline treated water and do not use plastic straws. The food is always a work in progress and is constantly evolving. We are in the midst of doing small plates for the bar and lounge, and still working on our product mix. The process involved in setting up the restaurant was actually made into a TV show called “Restaurant Bobby Chinn,” which should appear on Discovery TLC by the end of the year.
What do you do at your restaurants in Hanoi and Saigon to help reduce the ecological pressures on the region’s oceans?
Firstly we have stayed away from a lot of the endangered fish like yellow fin tuna and swordfish for the last 12 years. In Saigon we source directly from the wholesale markets and keep to what we believe is sustainable seafood. I am not sure of the fishing methods, and it is getting harder and harder for chefs to know how and where their produce comes from, but we try. Knowing what I know and being able to travel the world with my TV show “World Café: Asia”, I have been to many seafood markets—at the beginning it was very exciting, today I feel like I am visiting a morgue. I decided to be part of this event to learn more from those that work towards helping educate those of us who do not know or want to learn more.
Finally, what would you like your last meal to be?
I have been asked this question so many times and each time I am asked it I realize it depends on my mood. Either way, no meal eaten on my own would be as good as one that’s shared with others.
Visit www.thecoraltriangle.com/day to find out more about the various events happening around the region on June 9 and how to participate.