John Bil, noted restaurant whisperer and shellfish shaman, took Montreal chef Chuck Hughes and Toronto chefs like Grant van Gameren (Bar Isabel) and Matty Matheson (Parts & Labour) to task today for consorting with Mario Batali. The superstar chef supports the Chefs for Seals Canadian seafood boycott and is in Toronto this week for something called the Delicious Food Show.
THE BIG HOMIE @MARIOBATALI @chefrobgentile @chefchuckhughes @tylerflorence #dfs2014
UPDATE: Matheson has deleted a photo from his Instagram account with himself, Chuck Hughes, Rob Gentile, Mario Batali and Tyler Florence at the Delicious Food Show.
See Bil's tweets here:
Photo ops with famous chefs shouldn't come at the expense of our beliefs, and our fishermen #peishellfish— John Bil (@keeponshucking) October 17, 2014
This all stems, ICYMI, from the dubious Chefs for Seals Humane Society-led boycott of Canadian seafood over the commercial seal hunt. To help with the effort, Nigel Barker (of America's Next Top Model) helped enlist a who’s who of star chefs like Danny Bowien, Michelle Bernstein, Gabrielle Hamilton, Alex Guarnaschelli and Michael Voltaggio to ban some or all Canadian fish and seafood from their restaurants. Again, because of the commercial seal hunt.
A Humane Society spokesperson defended the boycott:
Well chefs sign a pledge to boycott Canadian seafood until the seal slaughter comes to an end. There are various levels of involvement after that. They can ban seafood from certain provinces where the slaughter takes place from their restaurants, ban snowcrab, which is the number one seafood export in Canada, or ban all Canadian seafood.
The mouthpiece went on the note that Batali did indeed pledge to ban all Canadian seafood from his 16-unit restaurant group in July of 2010.
When word of the campaign made headlines last year, Anthony Bourdain, who knows bullshit when he smells it, called it a misguided herd mentality and mused that chefs would serve a greater good if they directed their energy and ire in their own backyards. Two big name chefs, Sean Brock and Daniel Patterson, promptly withdrew support.
But the most vocal opponent of Chefs for Seals was Bil, who wrote a slew of prolific tweets in defense of Canada’s seafood workers. The champion oyster shucker and regular presence at restaurants like Joe Beef, Au Pied de Cochon and M. Wells Steakhouse told Eater Montreal that Chefs for Seals "makes no sense."
Fishermen have no say over what happens with seals at all. Take my home province, P.E.I. So much of the seafood industry is inshore. That's all regulated by the province, not the D.F.O. [Fisheries and Oceans Canada]. They can't stop it. It's federal versus provincial. Two totally separate jurisdictions. So those guys [fishermen, those in the seafood industry] have no leverage. Even if they were against seal hunting they couldn't do anything about it.
It's so disingenuous. This campaign is like picking on the U.S. because of one pig farm. And why seals? Seals have nothing to do with fish. Seals aren't even fished. They're caught on land. Land, water. Two different places. Why single out the seafood industry? If they [the Humane Society] said, 'let's go after Canadian oil, water or beef' maybe I'd understand. But seals have no affiliation with the seafood industry. The fishermen I know in P.E.I. - hundreds of fishermen - not one of them has ever harmed a seal. Nobody even talks about seals, except when Paul McCartney is in town. The seal industry is literally a different industry.
Bil's current dismay with Hughes and Matheson is understandable. The former built his name, in part, on his seafood and shellfish bona fides at Garde Manger in Old Montreal. More recently, Hughes backed Shuckers, a documentary about, what else, oysters.