Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, September 11, 2020

Tennessee Aquarium’s annual sustainable seafood fundraiser throws open the digital gates

Chef Tamie Cook will return to produce the Serve & Protect live cooking show for the Tennessee Aquarium. - Photograph provided

For the last decade, Chef Tamie Cook has promoted sustainable seafood as the producer of the Tennessee Aquarium’s Serve & Protect cooking show and dinner. A live cooking demonstration combined with an elegant seated dinner, this annual fundraising event will return for its 10th anniversary Oct. 1.

Presented by First Horizon Bank, this year’s event will kick off National Seafood Month.

Historically, the live cooking show is presented in the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D Theater. In light of the ongoing health crisis, this year’s on-site audience will be limited to around 40 people. However, the general public will be able join the live video feed by purchasing a tax-deductible digital ticket for $40.

While a first for Serve & Protect, “tele-cuisine” is nothing new for Cook, who has led a slew of live-streamed culinary demonstrations since the onset of the global pandemic. After crafting a menu, participants spend an evening remotely cooking together.

This year’s Serve & Protect is a scaled-up version of the same concept. Virtual attendees will receive a shopping list for two of the dishes Cook will prepare so they can chop, dice and sauté along from their own kitchen.

And if the culinary action onstage moves too fast, the stream will be saved so they can revisit it later and proceed at a more relaxed pace.

Sheri Castle, an award-winning professional food writer, recipe developer and cooking teacher, will be joining Cook onstage this year.

Castle served as senior food editor for Southern Living and currently serves as a contributing editor to the magazine. She’s written 16 cookbooks and is known for melding stories, humor and culinary expertise to her public appearances.

Beyond her desire to make seafood preparation approachable and entertaining, Cook feels bringing sustainability to a broad audience is a solemn duty.

Globally, overexploitation and mismanagement have caused fisheries to decline to the point that it’s not so much a case of “fish out of water” as “water out of fish.”

As a member of what she calls the Good Food Community, Cook has long championed educating the public about sustainable dining to ease the pressure on floundering fisheries and imperiled species.

“When I became aware that, because of what I eat, I could harm the Earth, its oceans and its waterways, I realized the power in making better decisions,” she says. “I feel it’s my responsibility to utilize its resources wisely to preserve them for the next generation.”

Conceived in collaboration with celebrity chef Alton Brown, Serve & Protect seeks to expand the attendee’s “seafood portfolio” by using sustainable ingredients such as Lionfish, Rainbow Trout and Yellowtail Snapper. Emphasis is placed on seafood sourced from U.S. fisheries.

The event serves as an opportunity to show how culinary choices can positively impact the ocean, even when a person is setting a table hundreds of miles from the nearest beach.

“The more times we can share the message of eating sustainably, the better,” Cook says. “I feel like we’ve made a difference in the last 10 years. People come back year after year and say they feel empowered to go to grocery stores and ask questions about where their food is coming from. That’s had a ripple effect that could educate even more people.”

Serve & Protect has always been a central pillar of the Aquarium’s annual fundraising plans, and the event returns at a time when that backing is more critical than ever.

Prolonged closure this spring and attendance limits since reopening have caused significant financial hardship for the Aquarium, which has relied on strong community support since opening its doors nearly three decades ago.

In addition to the virtual event, the Aquarium will host the first-ever Serve & Protect Silent Auction. The auction will begin on Sept. 24 and include a variety of behind-the-scenes experiences and original art created by Aquarium animals, volunteers and staff.

Other items will include hotel packages, Lodge cookware bundles, fossilized Megalodon Shark teeth and more.

Serve & Protect will take place Oct. 1 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. The aquarium will send participants a link in advance via email to access the livestream and a 10th anniversary cookbook featuring recipes from past events.

Purchase tickets at tnaqua.org/serve-and-protect.

Source: Tennessee Aquarium