Acclaimed chef, cookbook author, and sustainability guru Ned Bell dishes about the link between healthy food, family, and the environment. An executive chef of Ocean Wise, one of Bell’s missions is to educate Canadians about how to eat seafood sustainably. And as one of the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation’s National Champions, this father of three boys is encouraging men to embrace family togetherness through food. By undertaking meal preparation together using locally grown, fresh ingredients, food becomes the glue that strengthens and sustains family. “Food is the one thing that connects every human being; I have a unique opportunity to educate my boys through what I feed them and influence them in their future choices,” says Bell.

Mediaplanet: Why buy local?

Ned Bell: Buying local supports community farmers, artisans, fishermen, and ranchers. Nearly every community has its own farmer’s market. People become conscious consumers and discover where their food is from. They make more responsible food choices: buying local and in season. For me, I love the idea of incorporating local flavours into the dishes we eat at home. I was born in the Okanagan and raised on a farm, and today, eating local peaches and corn inspires me like nothing else. I call my food “globally inspired and locally created.”
Our life with the boys revolves around cooking, farmer’s markets, and sports. They realize that health and wellness — mental, spiritual, physical, and emotional — stem a lot from what you put in your body. If your body is properly fuelled, you’re a stronger person.

MP: What’s the connection between sustainability and family?

NB: In 2014, I launched a foundation called Chefs for Oceans. My two big goals were to create a national sustainable seafood day on March 18 and ensure that all Canadians can access sustainable seafood. My cookbook, Lure, teaches people how to incorporate sustainable seafood into their home cooking. Few people know this but there are 10,000 edible plants in the ocean. Fill up your plate with vegetables, we don’t have to be only eating fish — especially species like salmon — that are becoming increasingly threatened by overfishing and climate change. Eating wild seafood is a gift, not a right.

One of the neat things about sustainable seafood is that it’s the real fast food. It takes minutes to cook a piece of fish. And it brings family together. There’s nothing better than sharing a delicious meal from the sea with my boys.