Tête à tête with Olivier Roellinger

Last week, we gave tips on how to eat fish in a sustainable way. Today, we ask specialists to provide advice and recipes and help us create awareness on overfishing.
We shared an interview and a recipe by François Pasteau - chef of the restaurant l'Epi du Pin in Paris, who works in collaboration with SeaWeb in order to propose a sustainable cuisine on a daily basis. 

Our second chef - Olivier Roellinger - shares two passions with Carol and Humberto: the sea and cooking. He is the former chef of a three stars restaurant 'La Maison de Bricourt' and now chef at 'Le Coquillage' at Château Richeux. He explains how he tends to reconcile them every day.

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'The sea is humanity’s pantry. We tend to forget that it is fragile and not an inexhaustible resource. Wherever you are in the world, it is important to know about endangered species, fishing zones and techniques, as well as the species’ size at sexual maturity. This awareness will allow us to show to many that cooking can be tasty while sustainable'.

French chef Olivier Roellinger shares two passions: the sea and cooking. It is thus logical that this 'pirate chef' glorifies seafood through a cuisine that exudes passion and a deep commitment to a sustainable environment. His travels around the globe while looking for the best treasures in spice gardens have also allowed him to experience the beauty and the diversity of the seas. The seas conceal thousands of resources that ought to be preserved, more now than ever. For Olivier Roellinger, cooking seafood is compatible with sustainability. Furthermore, he is convinced that cooking offers a solid bedrock to glorify sustainable seafood. He has a profound desire to share his sensibility and his love for the sea and cooking, to promote its preservation and its valorization in the long term.  

Olivier Roellinger is considered one of the top chefs in France. After getting three Michelin stars, he was forced to hand them back and close down his gastronomic restaurant in 2008 due to some health issues. He then decided to open a new place named 'Le Coquillage' (The Shellfish) in Les Maisons de Bricourt in Cancale, where he uses ingredients that range from 'the freshest locally grown vegetables to the most exotic spices, to develop with his crew a cuisine exploring our maritime heritage that is simple and healthy while elegant, generous and full of joy'.

 

His cooking is also dedicated to the preservation of sea resources. Roellinger has been Vice-President of the international association Relais & Chateaux since 2009 and he has managed to convince the 500 members of the association from 56 countries to sign a charter committing themselves to using sustainable seafood. 'Considering that the seas are not inexhaustible resources, we do not cook endangered fish species, the minimum fish sizes are respected and the fishing techniques are sustainable.' Aware of the problem of dwindling fish stocks, Olivier Roellinger and the members of Relais & Chateaux are enlightened and conscious that they have a role to play as professional buyers of seafood products to preserve resources. 'We the chefs are the first people to influence what kind of seafood people eat. Nowadays, we pay more and more attention to the origins of the products we use – the meats, the vegetables, the cheeses… – yet we do not care enough about seafood. We do not know where the fish come from, what the stocks are. A lot of fish are caught and sold whereas they did not reproduce even once. It is true that it is a complex topic and that information is hard to get. But if we don’t show the example, who will?'

 

In Europe, half of the seafood is eaten in restaurants. Chefs have therefore a decisive role to play in the entire industry, not only with the fishermen, but also with the consumers, by educating their customers about the fish they chose to cook and the species they put on their menus. “The chefs do have the power to ask their suppliers for what they want and to offer their customers what they see fit. They can choose to promote the species whose stocks are not endangered. A chef can make his customers discover species that might be deemed less prized but that are as delectable as anything else from the ocean.'

Following this logic, Olivier Roellinger has thus taken the Atlantic and Mediterranean Bluefin tuna off his menu. He emphasizes however that his commitment to preserving the seas and their resources is not conflicting with fishing. On the contrary, Roellinger advocates fishing diversity instead of asking the fishermen to give up their job. 'And it is up to us to help the fishermen by creating a new demand for fish. Everything that come from the sea is delicious! We have to diversify the species we eat. The chefs have enough talent to promote unknown species. That is especially what makes our job interesting and beautiful.'

 

Olivier Roellinger is eager to share his vision with a new generation of chefs, in order to have them change their practice into a more responsible and fair joint approach. To achieve this, he is the ambassador of a culinary competition for sustainable seafood called Pour la préservation des ressources de la mer created by SeaWeb Europe. Roellinger is thrilled to note that the new generation of chefs is particularly receptive to the need for sustainable seafood. He is thus paving the way for new recipes that have to be delectable while preserving resources for future generations.

 

Interview done in collaboration with SeaWeb Europe.