published Sunday, July 15th, 2012

Alton Brown's visit to Chattanooga meant to educate about sustainable seafood

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To buy tickets and to learn more about the upcoming Serve & Protect special events, visit http://tinyurl.com/88hqewo.

Alton Brown is coming back.

The Food Network star is making a return appearance to Chattanooga this September as part of the Serve and Protect program, spearheaded by the Tennessee Aquarium.

"I was raised on a steady diet of Jacques Cousteau and Julia Child," Brown said in a 2011 Times Free Press interview. "I'm concerned with the issues of stewardship, with the fact that we run the planet's resources and how we manage those."

The Serve & Protect program was launched in 2011 as an effort to educate the greater Chattanooga community about sustainable seafood. On Sept. 13, Brown will host a lunch and a dinner, complete with cooking demonstrations and question-and-answer sessions.

In an interview last August, Aquarium Conservation Institute director Anna George said overfishing and poor fishing practices have led to the collapse of nearly one-third of fisheries in the United States.

Safe fishing is key. The initiative encourages the consumption of fish caught and raised in the United States, as U.S. fishing regulations are more stringent than those in other countries. Also key is diversifying types of seafood. That means less salmon and tuna and more rainbow trout, catfish and yellowtail snapper.

Those and two other species -- oysters and American lobster -- have been highlighted over the past year. The aquarium has been working in conjunction with a number of local restaurants to encourage Chattanoogans to expand their knowledge and their palettes.

"In a number of ways this is a neat thing for Chattanooga because it is giving people an opportunity to learn about sustainable seafood, try something different, which is at the heart of our message to put something different on your plate, but also celebrating the Chattanooga restaurant scene," said Thom Benson, spokesman for the aquarium.

The hope, he said, is that visiting the aquarium and learning about different species of fish and fishing practices can lead Chattanoogans to ask questions about the origin of their seafood at restaurants, and to make their selections wisely. A July 2012 progress report reflects initial success.

"While we have not collected data on the number of patrons visiting our partner restaurants for the full six months, we have received anecdotal information from their managers about the success of the program in terms of both questions asked by patrons and increased sales of sustainable seafood options," the report reads.

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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