We can’t think of a better new chef ambassador for Buy BC than Ned Bell. Led by the province’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Buy BC is a program that promotes awareness and support for food and beverages produced in B.C. A perfect fit for Ned, a longtime champion of shopping, sourcing and eating sustainably, this partnership creates opportunities to further advocate for the best local foods, farmers and fishers while increasing relationships with chefs and restaurateurs. We chatted with Ned to learn more. —Noa Nichol
Congrats on being named Buy BC’s Chef Ambassador! What does this role entail, and why is it a good fit for you at this point in your culinary career?
Thank you! I’m really looking forward to getting people of B.C. excited about the importance of a hyper-local, hyper-seasonal approach when it comes to the choices about where the food comes from that ends up on our tables that feeds our families. And, about buying from within our province to support our friends, neighbours, fellow British Columbians to grow and succeed. Being Buy BC’s Chef Ambassador is really an expansion of what I’ve been doing for years with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food and their various programs by creating awareness, education and engagement of all the deliciousness right here in B.C., something I care deeply about and am very passionate about ensuring our waterways and soil systems are sustainable, healthy and here for generations to come. Being the Chef Ambassador for the province-wide program is a great opportunity to continue to work with Buy BC and their partners and associations to celebrate B.C.’s farmers, fishers, producers, artisans, makers – the list goes on. As a chef, it is our job to celebrate putting food on the tables of B.C. and highlighting the producers, farmers, fishers; all those that bring ingredients to us.
What are some of the top/common foods and beverages produced in B.C?
Dairy, eggs, chicken, beef, fish and pork, all of our main protein sources are from right here within B.C. Plus, dozens and dozens of crops; there’s nothing that tastes better than fruits and veggies that are in our daily lives from farmers in our regions.
And, how about offerings that locals would be surprised to learn are made in B.C?
Hundreds of small and large companies and over 3,400 products are now eligible to add the Buy BC logo to their products, so it’s hard to pick just one! What am I loving in this moment? B.C. hazelnuts, I can’t get enough of them, I had them on top of my breakfast this morning.
In terms of consumers, how can we go about finding and choosing made-in-B.C. products?
The Buy BC logo is a certification mark that confirms food was grown, raised or processed in British Columbia. The program makes it easier for consumers to identify products with a Buy BC label at grocery stores (over 70) and farmers’ markets (almost 150) so British Columbians can enjoy healthy and local food while also supporting our communities and economy. Buy BC has partnered with Thrifty Foods and Safeway to promote B.C. products in-store in over 40 communities.
What are some of your top tips around thinking outside the box when choosing ingredients?
When I go to the grocery store, I leave a number of the lines blank at the end of the list and challenge myself to buy some things I’ve never tried before, aren’t the normal staples, and something obscure. We all are creates of habit and go to the grocery store and buy the same things. By following the this list principal, you’ll surprise yourself with local deliciousness, mysterious ingredients and products you’d typically glance over.
Why is it so important to support local right now?
The trend of buying B.C. food has grown instinctively in families and communities around our province, which is supporting our provincial food system and local food economies. All British Columbians have access to hyper-local, hyper-seasonal products in their regions in local grocery stores and farmers markets; from the Peace region to Northern BC to Vancouver Island to the Fraser Valley to my backyard of the Thompson Okanagan. Food grown and raised in B.C. is picked at peak freshness. That means shorter travel time from farms to tables, which in turn creates fresher and tastier food and a reduced carbon footprint, all while maintaining farmland and green space in communities.
Final, personal question: what made/grown-in-B.C. product are you loving to cook with right now?
Nothing taste more like the end of summer than sweet Chilliwack corn, Okanagan peaches alongside BC Salmon caught off the coasts of Vancouver Island pan fried with canola from Northern BC – talk about a true taste of B.C.! Here’s my Buy BC Salmon with Green Goddess recipe.