Chattanooga, Tenn. (Sept. 8, 2020) – For the last decade, Chef Tamie Cook has promoted sustainable seafood as the producer of the Serve & Protect cooking show and dinner. A live cooking demonstration combined with an elegant seated dinner, this annual fundraising event — the Aquarium’s largest — will return for its 10th anniversary on Oct. 1. This year’s event, presented by First Horizon Bank, arrives just in time to kick off National Seafood Month.
As with the overarching trend for 2020, Cook was all but convinced Serve & Protect would be canceled this year. Instead, the Aquarium is shifting gears and opening the event up to a much broader potential audience.
Historically, attendance to Serve & Protect has been constrained by seating capacity in the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D Theater, where the live cooking show is presented. In light of the ongoing health crisis, this year’s on-site audience will be limited to around 40 people, but foodies and Aquarium fans can support the Aquarium and join the fun via a live video feed by purchasing a tax-deductible digital ticket for just $40.
While a first for Serve & Protect, “tele-cuisine” is nothing new for Cook, who has led a slew of live-streamed culinary demonstrations since the onset of the global pandemic. After crafting a menu, they spend an evening remotely cooking together.
This year’s Serve & Protect is a scaled-up version of the same concept. Virtual attendees will receive a shopping list for two of the dishes that will be prepared so they can chop, dice and sauté along from the comfort of their own kitchen. And if the culinary action on stage moves too fast, the stream will be saved so they can revisit it later and proceed at a more relaxed pace.
“The idea that we can bring people together to do something fun, to forget about COVID-19 for a while, and make people laugh and feel connected — I know that’s going to feel amazing,” Cook says.
Sheri Castle, an award-winning professional food writer, recipe developer, and cooking teacher will be joining Cook onstage this year. Castle served as Senior Food Editor for Southern Living and currently serves as a contributing editor to the magazine. She has written 16 cookbooks and is known for melding stories, humor and culinary expertise to her public appearances.
“Part of the appeal of producing this show each year for the Aquarium is working with some of the best in the business,” Cook says. “I know the audience will love her sense of humor and her dedication to sustainability.”
Beyond her desire to make seafood preparation approachable and entertaining, Cook feels bringing sustainability to a broad audience is a solemn duty.
Globally, over-exploitation and mismanagement have caused fisheries to decline to the point that it’s not so much a case of “fish out of water” as “water out of fish.” As a member of what she calls the Good Food Community, Cook has long championed educating the public about sustainable dining to ease the pressure on floundering fisheries and imperiled species.
“When I became aware that, because of my choices of what I eat, I could do harm to the earth, to oceans, to our waterways, I realized the power in making better decisions,” she says. “I feel it’s my responsibility to utilize its resources wisely to preserve it for the next generation.
“The message of sustainability is not just for the elite or the well-educated; it’s for everybody.”
Conceived in collaboration with celebrity chef Alton Brown, Serve & Protect seeks to expand the attendee’s “seafood portfolio” by using sustainable ingredients such as Lionfish, Rainbow Trout and Yellowtail Snapper. Emphasis is placed on seafood sourced from U.S. fisheries, which are among the most responsibly managed globally. A host of culinary stars, including numerous James Beard Award winners, have been featured at Serve & Protect as guest chefs.
The event isn’t just a fun evening or a chance to support the Aquarium, however. It’s an opportunity to show how culinary choices can positively impact the ocean, even when you’re setting a table hundreds of miles from the nearest beach.
“The more times we can share the message of eating sustainably, the better,” Cook says. “I feel like we’ve made a difference in the last ten years. People come back year after year and say they feel empowered to go to grocery stores and ask questions about where their food is coming from. That’s had a ripple effect that could educate even more people.”
Serve & Protect has always been a central pillar of the Aquarium’s annual fundraising plans, and the event returns at a time when that backing is more critical than ever. Prolonged closure this spring and attendance limits since reopening have caused significant financial hardship for the Aquarium, which has relied on strong community support since opening its doors nearly three decades ago.
In addition to the virtual event, the Aquarium will host the first-ever Serve & Protect Silent Auction. The auction will begin on September 24th and includes a wide variety of behind-the-scenes experiences and original art created by Aquarium animals, volunteers and staff. Other items include hotel packages, Lodge cookware bundles, and other highly valued items like large, fossilized Megalodon Shark teeth.
Serve & Protect will take place Oct. 1 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. With a $40 contribution, virtual participants will be sent a link in advance via email to access the live stream and a special 10th anniversary “virtual cookbook” featuring a collection of recipes from past events.
Purchase tickets to the first-ever virtual Serve & Protect at https://tnaqua.org/serve-and-protect/.
For more information about sustainable seafood, visit tnaqua.org/serve-and-protect/why-it-matters/.
Sheri Castle, an award-winning professional food writer, recipe developer, and cooking teacher will be joining Cook onstage this year.