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Chefs Cook Up an Audience with Congress

May 8, 2007

Some Washington State chefs are among more than 200 food industry professionals meeting with congressional representatives this week. They're explaining the importance of a healthy wild salmon population to their businesses. Riley Starks is a chef who catches his own fish in the San Juan Islands for his restaurant, The Willows Inn. He says on the East Coast, wild salmon is already considered a delicacy. He's telling lawmakers that farm-raised fish just doesn't compare, and advising them to "vote with their forks" on bills to remove dams and restore native fish runs on Northwest rivers.

“There's not a quick fix to declining salmon runs. You can't just build a hatchery. You can't just start a salmon farm. You have to actually protect the habitat.”

To underscore their points, the chefs brought samples. Tonight, lawmakers will be treated to wild salmon appetizers and plenty of discussion about what it will take to restore native fish habitat in places like the Columbia, Snake and Klamath River basins.

Starks adds that the campaign, called "Vote with Your Fork," is a way to show lawmakers the real-life consequences of their decisions on salmon, and the industries that use it.

“Sometimes when it's just nuts and bolts and budgets and that, you don't really see the humanity that's going on behind those kinds of bills. And I think they're seeing some of these salmon bills in a slightly different light now.”

Chris Thomas/Eric Mack, Public News Service - WA