Chef Ned Bell is a true friend to us here at Cook Culture. Our owner Jed, and Ned have been very close friends for most of their lives. They share the same core values and care deeply about their communities. We’ve worked closely with him for years, and he’s been a big part of our culture. We’re so excited about the release of his first cookbook, Lure: Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the West Coast. We pinned him down (which is not easy!) to ask him a few questions about what drove him to write this book.
Chef Ned and Jed eating pizza… just a couple of years ago!
In Lure, Ned shares delicious recipes, easy techniques, and straightforward sustainability guidelines around Pacific species. The recipes are nutrient-dense and plant-based with a focus on sustainable seafood.
Cook Culture: What is the goal of your new cookbook Lure?
Chef Ned Bell: I rode my bike across the country in 2014 to increase awareness of sustainable seafood in Canada. The idea for the cookbook really came to be in that Summer/Fall of 2014, after the ride. I wanted to continue to engage with Canadians, and inspire them to eat sustainable seafood that’s clean and healthy.
Cook Culture: What keeps people from cooking with sustainable seafood?
Chef Ned Bell: People are intimidated by fish. They also think that they don’t like it because they haven’t always had the great experiences with fish.
In North America, we only eat salmon, tuna, shrimp, and some sort of white fish. There are 100’s if not 1000’s of different types of fish, which can be intimidating. When compared to chicken and beef, the most standard North American meats, you know what you are going to get. With fish, what is it going to look like? How is it going to taste? We don’t know?
In Lure, there’s a lot of simple salmon, white fish, rockfish recipes, and a great halibut burger. The cookbook has all kinds of recipes and all kinds of inspiration to cook with and get more comfortable with sustainable seafood.
Cook Culture: Everything in Lure looks delicious, where’s a good starting place for someone that doesn’t have much seafood experience, but wants to learn?
Chef Ned Bell: The Pan-Seared Arctic Char with Lentils, Parsnips, and Vanilla Vinaigrette (page 41) is a great place to start. Arctic Char is a light flavored salmon that is responsibly aquacultured and it’s a great fish for the Fall season.
Cook Culture: How did you come up with a recipe like Sea(weed) Brownies? It’s so out of the box, and sounds delicious.
Chef Ned Bell: At the end of the day, I’m a chef. I often joke that if I make something tasty, and you put it in your belly, you’re going to like me
The Sea(weed) brownie (page 175) is a fun play on the weed brownie idea. It was really something fun to incorporate into the book. Think of this as salty chocolate similar to salted caramel. You won’t even know that you are eating this superfood (seaweed).
Cook Culture: What’s your favourite dish to make for your family?
Chef Ned Bell: My three boys all have slightly different tastes, and with the youngest being only 2 years old, sometimes it can be tough. Something that everyone in my family always enjoys in the Summer is my Halibut Burgers (page 46).
My wife loves things that have a little bit of spice to them, like halibut with coconut curry. I love to describe my food as globally inspired and locally created.
For Fall, one of my family go-to’s is the Steelhead Freshwater Trout baked with apples and golden raisins (page 95). It has a really fun preparation and is foolproof.
What’s great about Lure is that it celebrates vegetables and plant-based foods, as much as it celebrates sustainable seafood.
Cook Culture: As a busy Chef, and now Author, how do you balance your busy family life?
Chef Ned Bell: That is one of my biggest challenges. I was just texting my wife this morning about how to do this. My job takes me away a lot, and it’s not easy.
I try to focus on the small things that matter—the micro-moments: making sure my wife can get to yoga, surprising her with flowers, taking the boys to hockey.
The family table in my house is where we get so much enjoyment. We always try and eat a meal together, where we have to sit down and look each other in the eyes.
Cook Culture: What’s the one tool you couldn’t live without in your kitchen?
Chef Ned Bell: I use my Vitamix all the time. I made smoothies in it this morning, and sauces yesterday. It’s always in use.
I also couldn’t live without my Bob Kramer knives.
Cook Culture: Where’s your favourite place to bike?
Chef Ned Bell: In B.C., I love to climb up the North Shore mountains. We call it The Triple Crown, a 5 hour day of riding up Seymour, Grouse, and Cypress.
My favourite part of the ride across Canada that I did in 2014 was Newfoundland. The ride launched on Canada day and the first week was the hardest and most extraordinary. There was all of this pressure leading to launch and suddenly here I am riding a bike on the side of the road in Newfoundland. Gros Mourne National Park was beyond extraordinary. I’ll always love the West Coast mountains, but the East Coast is such a different place.
Cook Culture: What is next for Chef Ned Bell?
Chef Ned Bell: Constantly diving deep into the world of sustainable seafood, I’ve been spending a lot of time educating and advocating for healthy oceans, lake, and rivers. I miss cooking in a restaraunt—in a kitchen. So I don’t know what’s next. I’m just running hard and seeing what opportunities are out there.