Olivier Roellinger Interview
The sea is currently in a crisis. One option is to do nothing,
but a good chef would try to protect the sources of life. “
Olivier Roellinger has been saying for over 20 years that being sustainable is a challenge the culinary world faces. Since 2010, he has been working towards this at Relais & Châteaux, where he is Vice President. As a result, the stocks of Pacific tuna have started to recover. Mr. Roellinger’s beliefs have been making great waves across kitchens and restaurants worldwide.
The oceans make up 70% of the Earth. Life originated in the sea, a very long time ago. The ocean offers the resources of life for everybody, and it is also a huge place of food storage. It is quite important for us, cooks.
I live in a small port town of Cancale, Bretagne, France. The tidal range is quite wide in the seas off this town and a variety of planktons have developed which are unrivaled in Europe. It is a treasure house for fish. Some plants requiring seawater for several hours a day also thrive well. You could say it is a place protected by the sea, moon phases, and tides. A less than hour drive to the west takes you to the port town of Saint-Malo, home of seafaring people. Their sea routes have connected them to the Middle East, India, Asia and the New Continents. The story of those living on the sea has become the story of the land, and dishes of the land.
Not only pursuing taste but being ethical
Today the ocean, of the utmost importance for humans, is faced with crisis. Some reports state that only 10% of fishing resources in the world are sustainable. 90% of large fish in the ocean in the world have already been
caught. Fish will disappear from the sea and the dining table. Still as much as 40% of fish in mixed catches in large-scale fishing is wasted without eaten. We need to pay attention to the fact here that it is large-scale
fishing that accelerates the crisis, not small fishing boats.
In Europe, 60% of fish caught is consumed in restaurants. Therefore, we must say chefs bear a great responsibility. Of course it is possible to just continue doing his/her job without doing or thinking anything. I think what we must do is not ban fishing but to think what we can do to protect marine resources in individual areas by increasing the awareness of cooks in the world. In order for that to happen, first of all, it is important to understand which fish are facing crisis at what degree. Next comes fishing methods. Which method will avoid destruction of the ecological system? The third is to decide the size of fish to be allowed for catch. Fourth is the season. Spawning time varies among fish. Catching fish before spawning time will decrease the number of fish. I believe we should be bon chef (good chef) instead of gran chef to put an end to this negative chain. The requirement is not only “good taste” but also “ethical dishes”. For that purpose, bon chef protects diversity in the ecological system while still providing fun and joy of eating, and also protects the health of people, health of the Earth. I hope more and more such bon chef will come into being in Japan where people have traditionally lived with respect for nature.
“Fairies live in Bretagne. You savor the taste of poetry here, which was brought by the wind and temperature of the day. I think Canclale is a place like that,” says Mr. Roellinger.
Joined Relais & Châteaux in 1989. Owner of “Les Maisons de Bricourt” and is the top master chef in France. Vice president of “Relais & Châteaux”, a member organization of approx. 580 luxury hotels and restaurants in 60 countries in the world. He is a chef who earned a three star Michelin rating. Still he is committed to his hometown in Bretagne, France. He advocates coexistence with the environment and local community, and influences the global cooking world.
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