Originally from Okanagan, British Columbia, Ned Bell has learned how to make the most of British Columbia’s terroir. While he started washing dishes at 15 years old, he made his way through some of the best kitchens in Canada becoming an emblematic chef and ambassador of our country. Loyal to his first love—BC’s food scene, he actively contributes to putting Vancouver on the map. His outstanding passion for flavourful and stunning dishes has been recognized many times over. He is the recipient of awards such as Canada’s “Chef of the Year” at Food Service and Hospitality magazine’s 2014 Pinnacle Awards, “Best Overall and Rising Star” by Where magazine, “Top 40 Foodies Under 40” by Western Living magazine in 2008 and “Global Seafood Award for Advocacy” at the 2017 Seaweb Seafood Summit.
His dedication to putting fresh, sustainable and locally sourced cuisine on our tables, naturally brought him to become one of the most passionate chefs about sustainable seafood. As Ned says it: “As a chef, I don’t know that there’s a more important topic of conversation than healthy oceans. I hope I can gather as many of my peers to be on this journey with me as possible.” It is no surprise then that the chef is now the executive chef and ambassador for Ocean Wise and the Vancouver Aquarium’s sustainable seafood program. Ned continues to push for more awareness and action to protect our oceans through initiatives like the Chefs for Oceans initiative he founded or the publication of his cookbook Lure, showcasing sustainable seafood recipes from the West Coast.
Do you have a lucky charm in the kitchen?
My lucky charm is my training, my foundation in technique, my work ethic in always willing to do what it takes and of course, my passion for sustainability and Ocean Wise seafood.
There are only 5 Oceans in the world, we are surrounded by 3 of them, I don’t know that there is a more important conversation than the health of our Lakes, Oceans and Rivers and the communities that are ‘fed’ from them. That fuels me daily to dive as deep as I can in my advocacy and education.
What’s the last thing you burned?
Oh gosh, I don’t remember! I mean, that’s what timers are for no? 😉
Your favourite spice?
That’s easy. Salt. The first thing you learn and the first thing you teach is how to season food properly.
Although, my wife says my food is too salty…
What makes you “kitchen angry”?
A mess! I hate messy, unorganized kitchens, floors, fridges, and especially freezers!
Kitchens always have freezers that are disasters, because that’s where we put things when we don’t know what to do with them.
Latest flavour combination you discovered?
Coconut worms on my most recent trip to Vietnam studying shrimp farming.
They are delicious, salty, crispy and creamy all at the same time.
What’s your most extravagant purchase?
My road bike. It’s kind of silly what I spent on it, but it is worth every penny because without it I wouldn’t have balance, fitness and ‘me’ time.
Favourite song in the kitchen?
Usually, early in the morning, classical music before anyone shows up.
What’s your comfort food?
Well, I have 3 sons, so we love great sushi and eat a lot of Gelato.
What’s your most essential tool?
A great set of De Buyer frying pans.
Favourite smell in the kitchen?
I trained as a pastry chef, so I would say that smell you get when you walk into any pastry kitchen or bakery.
I love the smell of fresh bread.
What’s your bad habit?
Well, early on in my career, I had all the bad habits! But now, I live a very healthy life. I don’t really have any bad habits any more.
What do you admire in other chefs?
Drive, creativity and dedication to the craft.
What or who is your greatest inspiration?
That’s easy – my wife Kate. She is battling breast cancer right now and has shown such compassion, bravery and strength. She is my hero!
Also my 3 sons, Fin, Max and Jet. They are the reason I work as hard as I do.
The dish you are the proudest of?
I don’t know that I have a dish I am most proud of, but my signature dish are my Dungeness Crab or Lobster Tacos. They are awesome and everyone loves them.
Honey/Maple Miso Vinaigrette, Crushed Avocado, Crispy Wontons, Togarashi and radishes. They are the perfect expression of my food style – “Globally Inspired, Locally Created.”
What’s your end of the world menu?
Dinner at a local Japanese restaurant in Vancouver called Stem. The chefs and owners Tatsuya and Yoshi have been feeding me since I was 17.
I love Japanese culture and Japanese food. Honestly, its perfect, every time!
Your favourite advice or quote?
“Cook what you know.”
Chef Rob Feenie taught me that when I was 21 during my first culinary competition. It has always stuck with me. He was right, still is!
Mussels and Kelp Pappardelle Recipe by Ned Bell
Ned Bell has made it his life’s goal to protect our oceans by advocating for traceable, sustainable seafood. Not only does he want us to be aware of the importance of healthy oceans for our future, also he wants us to get to know the diversity of the life that lives in it.
When talking about his cookbook Lure, he says: “I challenge people to eat seafood once a week for the next year, and I challenge people once a month to eat something from the ocean they’ve never had before. Dive a little deeper into this conversation. Try new things.”
Ned wants his food industry peers to join him in asking questions about where their seafood is coming from. “The full team has to be committed to sustainability,” he says. “If the full team above and below the chef isn’t committed, then it just ends up being hot air. We need to be asking questions: Is it traceable? Is it labelled properly? Is it sustainable? Is it responsibly farmed?”
With this Mussels and Kelp Pappardelle Recipe Ned shares with MENU Mag today, he brings together a comforting pasta dish is rich, creamy and full of umami, thanks to a unique and less consumed sea product: kelp.
“Ask your fishmonger to source fresh curly kelp for you. You can find dehydrated bull or winged kelp at health food stores. Once added to the sauce, it rehydrates to a spinach-like texture in less than a minute.”
1/2 Tbsp canola oil
1/2 shallot, finely chopped
1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
1 bird’s-eye chili, seeded and finely chopped
1 1/2 cups whipping (33%) cream, plus extra if needed
1 cup fresh kelp or 1/3 cup dried bull or winged kelp, rinsed (if dried, soak in warm water for 10 minutes)
Grated zest of 1/2 lime
1/2 tsp sesame oil
Sea salt, to taste
Mussels and pappardelle
3 lbs live mussels
1 lb dried pappardelle or fettuccine
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/4 cup white wine
3 Tbsp sliced fresh basil
3 Tbsp dried crushed bull or winged kelp (see headnote)
Grated zest and juice of 1 to 2 lemons
1 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add shallots and garlic and sauté for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add remaining ingredients except salt, bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and cool lightly.
Transfer mixture to a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Strain purée through a fine-mesh sieve. Thin out, if desired, with a little extra cream. Season to taste with salt. (Can be made ahead and refrigerated.)
Mussels and pappardelle
Put mussels in a colander and rinse under cold running water. Discard any that are open and won’t close when tapped or that have broken shells. Scrub off any debris and pull off beard. Keep chilled until needed.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat and add pasta. Cook until al dente, according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Meanwhile, heat oil and butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and shallots and sauté for 5 minutes, until tender and translucent. Pour in wine and bring to a boil.
Add mussels, cover and cook 2 minutes, just until the shells open up. Discard any that don’t open. Add kelp cream and cook for another 2 minutes, until warmed through. Stir in basil, dried kelp, lemon zest and juice and crushed red pepper (if using).
Drain pasta and stir it into pan of mussels. Transfer to a large serving bowl and serve family style.