The Tennessee Aquarium’s 2016 Serve And Protect Event Is Sept 15

Includes Three Savory Species, Two Top Chefs And One Quick-Witted Host

Thursday, August 18, 2016 - by Thom Benson
Chef Virginia Willis and Chef Tamie Cook
Chef Virginia Willis and Chef Tamie Cook

The Tennessee Aquarium and several of Chattanooga’s top restaurants are gearing up for the Serve and Protect event on Thursday, Sept. 15. It takes a lot of preparation to organize a special evening that pairs a live cooking show with an elegant seafood dinner in one of the Aquarium’s galleries. 

Longtime friends, chefs Virginia Willis and Tamie Cook, will make mouths water as they whip up sustainable seafood dishes side by side on a temporary stage that will be erected in front of the giant IMAX screen. This dynamic duo will be joined by Kim Severson, award-winning New York Times food writer and author, who will serve as emcee for this evening of deliciously smart fun which begins with a cocktail hour and sustainably-sourced appetizers. 

Once the cooking show begins, Chef Willis and Chef Cook will add their uniquely southern spin to seafood as they tempt the audience with catfish, crayfish and squid entrees. These sustainable choices may have mild-mannered reputations, but when called upon for special occasions, their superpowers of robust flavor, richness in nutrients, and all-American protection of the ocean is revealed. 

Chef Willis returns to the Serve and Protect stage at the top of her game. She is a 2016 James Beard award winner for her most recent cookbook, “Lighten Up, Y’all: Classic Southern Recipes Made Healthy and Wholesome.” She is also currently in development with Boston’s WGBH-TV on “Secrets of the Southern Table: A Food Lover’s Tour of the Global South,” which will air on PBS stations nationwide in 2018. A new companion book will be released to accompany the program’s debut. 

Chef Willis is also a contributing editor for Southern Living. Her column “Cooking with Virginia” will debut this fall. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of “Seven Food Writers You Need to Know.” Follow Willis on Twitter @VirginiaWillis 

Chef Cook has been an integral part of the Aquarium’s Serve and Protect sustainable seafood program since it was launched in 2011, both producing and starring in this top-rated event each year. For nearly a decade, Chef Cook served as culinary director for the Food Network show “Good Eats.” 

Her many talents have paved the way for her to work on award-winning cookbooks and videos while utilizing her technical culinary art skills in the roles of food stylist and recipe tester/developer. 

Chef Cook is also a freelance food writer and teacher who has a passion for leading others to sustainable seafood and mindful eating. 

Kim Severson has been a staff writer for The New York Times since 2004. She is a correspondent based in the South, reporting on the nation’s food and culture. She also contributes to NYT Cooking, a new website and app based on the extensive New York Times collection of recipes and cooking videos. 

Ms. Severson has won four James Beard Awards for food writing and the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism for her work on childhood obesity in 2002. Follow Ms. Severson on Twitter @KimSeverson 

All three will share information about making wise sustainable seafood choices and guests will discover preparation techiques to bring out the rich flavors while keeping these dishes light. 

To register for the Serve and Protect event, go to:

To spark conversations about sustainable seafood, the Aquarium’s Serve and Protect program begins with a simple premise - if you purchase U.S. caught or produced seafood you are helping to make a difference since our fisheries and aquaculture is regulated and managed responsibly. 

Today more than 30 fish species that had been overfished in the past are now listed as “rebuilt” thanks to regulations that were set in place 40 years ago. 

For nearly 40 years after the end of World War II, technology allowed commercial fishing operations to expand their reach and their catch sizes. Back then, the ocean was viewed as being so vast and endless that the supply of fish could never end. 

Until one day, it did. 

By the early 1970s, people recognized that both the amount and sizes of many targeted fish species were rapidly getting smaller. Fish stocks began collapsing under the pressure and Cod, Atlantic Herring and Alaskan Salmon were in serious trouble. 

In April of 1976 Congress passed the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Management & Conservation Act. This federal law created a system of regional fisheries management councils that allows the government to work with fishermen and partners to sustainably manage the nation’s fisheries. In short, the Magnuson-Stevens Act works by using science-based decision making to prevent overfishing and rebuild depleted stocks while ensuring a safe and sustainable seafood supply. 

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, since the protections were enacted overfishing in the United States has ended and 39 fish species that were teetering on the brink of total collapse have been declared rebuilt. NOAA Fisheries reports commercial and recreational fishing accounts for more than $100 billion to the U.S. economy and supports 1.8 million jobs. 

And, consumers can make their voices heard by supporting restaurants and stores that serve and sell U.S. seafood. 

Learn more about wise seafood choices and find sustainable seafood recipes on the Aquarium’s website: 

Don’t miss the annual Cast Iron Cookoff at the Chattanooga Market on Sunday, Sept. 18. Five of Chattanooga’s top chefs will create sustainable seafood dishes with ingredients sourced at the Market. The winner of this year’s event will receive a “golden ticket” to the 2016 World Food Championships. Learn more:  

Kim Severson
Kim Severson

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