Eco-friendly seafood dinner for Ocean Wise makes a splash at French Embassy

Gastronomic benefit supports conservation group’s efforts to encourage sustainable seafood choices
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Everyone was happy as a clam at the French Embassy on Thursday as Ambassador Kareen Rispal hosted a one-of-a-kind Goût de France / Good France gastronomic experience in support of Ocean Wise and its sustainable seafood program.

Close to 50 attendees of the $350-a-ticket, sold-out event dined together by candlelight over a French-style, four-course creation, complete with wine pairings.

The gourmet meal was prepared by Ocean Wise executive chef Ned Bell, the ambassador’s chef, Laurent Provence, and chefs and students from Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa. The event was part of a larger spring celebration of France's renowned cuisine, taking place in that country and internationally.

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French Ambassador Kareen Rispal visits with dinner guests during the Goût de France / Good France dinner she hosted at the embassy on Thursday, March 21, 2019, in support of Ocean Wise, an ocean conservation non-profit organization. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The menu included Bell’s famous northern shrimp taco hors d’oeuvres; smoked sturgeon with saffron aioli and olive fougasse; organic wild coho salmon caught off the northern coast of British Columbia in Haida Gwaii. Guests were also served imported goat cheese from the Loire Valley as part of a fancy cheese dish, and a yummy chocolate-almond dessert.

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Wild coho salmon, served at the Goût de France / Good France dinner held at the French Embassy on Thursday, March 21, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The goals of Ocean Wise align with France and Canada’s efforts to become world leaders in ocean protection, said Rispal while speaking to the room about the need to: stop illegal fishing and overfishing, protect endangered species and reduce ocean pollution, which is being aggravated by the accumulation of plastic wastes.

“I think this sustainable dinner is more than just a symbol, it also reflects the fight that France, along with Canada, has undertaken in favour of the environment,” said Rispal. “The French Embassy is proud to give the proceeds from this dinner to Ocean Wise, whose conservation programs are helping to create an ecosystem of producers and consumers who are more respectful and aware of these key challenges.”

Making a rare appearance was Rispal’s husband, Nicolas De Rivière, who flew in from Paris just in time to make the dinner.

The ambassador mingled with guests throughout the evening and visited with them at their tables. So did Bell, who's been an effective sustainable seafood advocate for the ocean conservation non-profit organization.

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French Ambassador Kareen Rispal pays a visit to dinner guests during the Goût de France / Good France dinner she hosted at the embassy on Thursday, March 21, 2019, in support of Ocean Wise, an ocean conservation non-profit organization. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Ocean Wise executive chef Ned Bell puts some finishing touches on the hors d'oeuvres in the kitchen at the Embassy of France, which hosted its Goût de France / Good France dinner on Thursday, March 21, 2019, in support of Ocean Wise. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Ocean Wise executive chef Ned Bell visited dinner tables to inspire and educate guests about choosing sustainable seafood, at the Goût de France / Good France dinner held at the Embassy of France on Thursday, March 21, 2019, in support of Ocean Wise. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Bell has authored a cookbook, Lure: Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the West Coast (he gifted a copy to the ambassador at the dinner), and also founded the Chefs for Oceans movement in 2014. It involved him riding his bike 8,700 kilometres across Canada and hosting events to celebrate healthy lakes, oceans and rivers. He was born in the Okanagan and lives in Vancouver but his forefathers were cod fishermen from Newfoundland.

Bell encouraged dinner guests to learn more about the origins of the seafood sold in grocery stores or served at restaurants, and to always look for the Ocean Wise label. “You can vote with your wallet, and that’s a pretty powerful place to be,” said Bell.

His advice got Harley Finkelstein, COO of Shopify, thinking. The self-described foodie said he plans to be more discerning about the fish he orders while dining out. “When you go to a great restaurant you should be asking the right questions,” said Finkelstein.

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From left, Harley Finkelstein with his entrepreneur wife, Lindsay Taub, are soon-to-be Rockcliffe Park neighbours to Susan Peterson d'Aquino and Thomas d'Aquino, whom they got a chance to meet at the Goût de France / Good France dinner held at the Embassy of France. Photo by Caroline Phillips 
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From left, consultant Jennifer Toby with Dr. Françoise Auclair and Lise Horsthuis and Winfried Horthuis, director at Adlib Software, at the Goût de France / Good France dinner held at the French Embassy on Thursday, March 21, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Micheline McElligott, partner at Brickland Timberlay Corporation, with Shirley Westeinde, a former chair of the  Canadian Construction Association, and Catherine Bélanger, whose late husband was Liberal Ottawa-Vanier MP Mauril Bélanger, at the Goût de France / Good France dinner held at the French Embassy on Thursday, March 21, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Decorator and designer Henrietta Southam at the Goût de France / Good France dinner with her partner, Peter Boole from Social restaurant, located just a little down Sussex Drive from the French embassy. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The evening also helped to highlight the important work being done by Ocean Wise, a group that many in the room had never previously heard of. “Not really knowing very much about Ocean Wise and hearing the stories and inspirational messages has really made it a very, very interesting night,” said d’Aquino, who counts catch-and-release fly fishing in northern Labrador among his hobbies.

D’Aquino, who's the chairman and chief executive of Intercounsel Ltd. and one-time CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (now known as the Business Council of Canada), said he was initially attracted to the Goût de France / Good France event because it offered guests a chance to dine in “one of the greatest architectural jewels in Canada” with an ambassador as highly regarded as Rispal.

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Whitney Fox and her husband, Telesat CEO Dan Goldberg, at the Goût de France / Good France dinner held at the French Embassy on Thursday, March 21, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Lindsay Taub, Ambassador Kareen Rispal, Harley Finkelstein and Nicolas De Rivière at the Goût de France / Good France dinner held at the French Embassy on Thursday, March 21, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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John Berryman, senior vice president and managing director of BMO Nesbitt Burns, with his wife, Louise, at the Goût de France / Good France dinner held at the French Embassy on Thursday, March 21, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Marie Anik Desmarais, owner of Anik Boutique on Cumberland Street, in dinner conversation at the Goût de France / Good France event held at the French Embassy on Thursday, March 21, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Ocean Wise executive chef Ned Bell with French Ambassador Kareen Rispal and Laura Irvine, a representative of Ocean Wise's sustainable seafood program, at the Goût de France / Good France dinner held at the French Embassy on Thursday, March 21, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Close to 50 people dined in the French Embassy's Grand Salon for the Goût de France / Good French dinner hosted at the embassy on Thursday, March 21, 2019, in support of Ocean Wise, an ocean conservation non-profit organization. Photo by Caroline Phillips

— caroline@obj.ca