By Christopher Sun
A “chowdown” is set in Vancouver this week and Ladysmith’s Natasha Harris is aiming to win it.
On Wednesday, Harris and 11 of Vancouver’s top chefs will compete for bragging rights at the Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown for the best seafood chowder. The friendly competitive event at the Vancouver Aquarium aims to bring attention to sustainable seafood.
“It’s to celebrate sustainable seafood and celebrate Ocean Wise,” said Vancouver Aquarium spokeswoman Roxanne St-Pierrie. “It is also a demonstration of how easy it is to include Ocean Wise friendly foods in your meal.”
Ocean Wise and its fish symbol, which is used nationwide, was created by the Vancouver Aquarium to aid consumers in choosing ocean-friendly seafood when visiting a restaurant or market.
Harris, 36, is the executive chef for Sunset Bay Yacht Group in Vancouver.
The Yellowpoint native spent a summer working on a boat which practised fish dragging, a type of fishing that involves dragging a net in the water, which collects everything in the water.
“It was disgusting the amount of fish going to waste,” Harris said. “Whatever they didn’t want was thrown over the side and most were already dead at that point. It was sick.”
Harris’ chowder entry will be alder smoked octopus and cured bacon, with a mixture of sable fish, clams, mussels, smoked cheddar and apple, topping it off with truffle oil.
As a child, Harris’ favourite dish to make was hamburgers in a cast iron pan and homemade fries with her grandmother. This graduated to making homemade soups with her dad, thai dishes and then experimenting with mixing different items, using local produce from a nearby market.
This upbringing also made her a supporter of using locally sourced ingredients. Her first stop whenever she comes back to the Island to visit her family is the local produce market.
Harris moved to Vancouver shortly after high school to attend the Art Institute’s Dubrulle International Culinary Arts. She credited her family and how food brought them together, for igniting her passion in becoming a gourmand.
“I owe most of it to my mom, the passion,” Harris said. “She was one of those moms who wouldn’t get me an Easy-Bake oven because she was like ‘you’re cooking in a real one’.”
Harris’ first position after completing the first of many certifications was working at Culinary Capers, one of the largest catering companies in Canada. She then moved on to working on a yacht and has been there ever since.
“I love it, I have so much freedom to create,” Harris said about her current employer of five years. “I’m on the water, watching the beautiful sunset, you can’t beat it.”
Harris works up to 18 hours a day, seven days a week during peak season, serving corporate clients. She has made many contacts, which allows her to travel and work during the slow season. This includes being asked to be a personal chef on a 100 acre private island in Desolation Sound and being invited to California to prepare a Thanksgiving dinner.
Harris is now working on her sommelier certification at Dubrulle, in addition to working her job.