A Morning with Lisa, Jerry, Charles and Pat

0

If you are reading this, chances are that you already know about Atlantic Seafood’s friendly customer service and quality, fresh seafood. There are also, however, many lesser known things about the people and the work behind the product. This month I visited the store to give you a behind – the – scenes view of Atlantic Seafood. Get to know Lisa, the owner, Jerry, the head chef, Charles, the Sous Chef and Pat, a new employee, better while getting a peek at what goes on to make Atlantic Seafood what it is.

I arrived to find the store bustling with activity – even on this cloudy weekday morning. It was apparent from the moment I walked through the door that producing the cases of perfect – looking fish fillets and scrumptious gourmet foods takes a lot of work.

The bowl of lobster worked with during the interview.

The seared tuna that was cut as the interview progressed.

A work table in the back room bore a sizable bowl of fresh red and white chunked lobster meat for lobster salad. A second bowl held shrimp, and a nearby tray bore blocks of seared tuna. So much needed to be done that morning that Charles worked with these foods as we spoke.

I began the interview with this question:

What originally interested you in seafood?

It turns out that, though Atlantic Seafood is now lauded by the New York Times, selected by Shoreline Publishing readers as Freshest Seafood on the Connecticut Shoreline, and repeatedly Zagat – rated, those who run it were not even seeking to work with sea food at first! Lisa’s initial goal was to own a business. Atlantic Seafood would turn out to have all of the qualities that she sought.

Jerry

Jerry, now an accomplished chef, had a similar story of how he got started. “I needed a job” was the simple truth that drew Jerry into work as a dishwasher at a restaurant years ago. As Jerry continued employment at the restaurant, however, people began to notice his talent for working with food. This would later result in Jerry’s graduation from the C.I.A. (Culinary Institute of America) – the nation’s top culinary school. All in all, to create the Atlantic Seafood that we know and love today, things just happened to fall into place perfectly.

What has been your most memorable experience in working with sea food?

When asked this question, Lisa recalled a run – in with a stranger posting a sign on store property that led to her appearing on TV! Everyone else chimed in with their own memories of that day. One day last winter, Lisa noticed an odd sight out the window. A stranger was posting a sign on Atlantic Seafood property without permission. Assuming that this was a sign for a tag sale, Lisa ventured out into the cold to talk to the visitor. It turned out that the stranger was actually Bob Wilson, the host of Roadside Stories! Lisa ended up inviting Wilson into the store, where an impromptu Roadside Stories episode was filmed. Lisa and her staff cooked up foods like grilled shellfish, and taught little – known things about making seafood.

The Atlantic Seafood website mentions that you enjoy looking for new recipes and equipment in seafood. Have you made any especially great find lately?

Lisa’s answer to this question was about revolutionary ways to use swordfish parts. She explained that, in the making of a swordfish picatta cake, only a small portion of the swordfish is focused on and the rest is considered useless. Now, however, people are beginning to keep these “extra” parts of the fish and fuse them into delicious recipes. Two new uses include the swordfish burger and swordfish salad. Though swordfish salad is an exceptional new recipe just perfect for summer barbecues, its ingredients are simple – cured lemon, capers, and Italian vinaigrette.

What are your pet peeves about working in seafood?

Jerry and Lisa raised some of the difficulties of running a seafood business. Jerry brought up an issue that I’d had no idea of – prices of the fish that Atlantic Seafood buys change every day. The fishermen who sell the fish base their prices on the ever – changing success of their catches. Despite these wavering prices, Atlantic seafood must keep its prices more or less constant for the customers. Apparently a happy price medium needs to be met that is not easy to find. Lisa also highlighted the headaches of seafood being highly perishable and temperature – sensitive.  One needs to really “stay on top of things”, removing product that does not sell on time and ensuring that customers only find fresh, top – quality seafood when they walk into the store.

Many of the foods at Atlantic Seafood must be CAREFULLY kept at the right temperature!

The website mentions that you enjoy supporting charities with Atlantic Seafood’s profits. What are your favorites?

Lisa replied that she especially enjoys helping local charities such as schools, Safe Grad Night, the local arts, and High Hopes. Charitable giving is so important to Lisa, in fact, that Atlantic Seafood originally spent its entire advertising budget on charities. Hence, Atlantic Seafood made its presence known while helping people.

If you had to symbolize your personality with a certain fish, what fish would that be?

The group decided that Pat would be symbolized by the striped bass, since he loves fishing for the bass in his kayak. Lisa added that Jerry would be the king salmon because it is “the premier of the salmons” and “runs the show” much as Jerry runs the culinary side of Atlantic Seafood.

A gigantic striped bass. 

 

What is your favorite food sold at Atlantic Seafood and what do you like about it?

Atlantic Seafood’s shrimp. You can see the difference!

I was surprised by everyone’s prompt agreement that this food was the shrimp (though the Block Island Swordfish was also mentioned). When I asked why this had happened, Jerry explained that Atlantic Seafood’s shrimp is “like a needle in a haystack”. This is because the shrimp is entirely free of any kind of preservative – something nearly unheard of in the seafood industry. Most other shrimp on the market are fraught with unnatural chemical preservatives such as tripolyphosphate, or have been preserved via a practice called salt washing.

I certainly agree that there is something special about the shrimp at Atlantic Seafood. I did not leave the store without a container of the best – selling lemon dill shrimp salad. Though I am not typically a shrimp person, I’m hooked on the unique taste of this salad. The flavor that makes the salad so popular is somehow achieved with a very basic combination of ingredients such as dill and cured lemon.

What is your biggest hope for Atlantic Seafood over the next five years? 

Lisa was quick and emphatic in answering this question. Her hope is that Atlantic Seafood remains a meaningful presence in the community, and that the company culture stays intact.

Atlantic Seafood’s boutique – quality salmon!

Aside from Atlantic Seafood’s culture stressing contribution to the community, the discussion that followed showed that “our thought process is about quality”. Lisa and Jerry take great pains to procure only the best product for Atlantic Seafood. The salmon, for example, is “boutique quality”. This means that the fish is of the rare quality served at the most exclusive restaurants.

When it comes to salmon, Lisa and Jerry continued, quality really matters. Lisa stated that a lot of people are mistaken for thinking that “salmon is salmon”.  For a single species of salmon there are ten different established grades of quality!  Jerry added that Atlantic Seafood also sells only top quality lobster – Maine hard shell. Another hope of Jerry is that Atlantic Seafood gets more people interested in eating seafood over the next five years.

 

Atlantic Seafood purchases only Maine hard shell lobster.

 

Following the main interview, while I was taking pictures, Pat emphasized Atlantic Seafood’s focus on providing not only quality food but healthy food. He showed me a bottle of “elderberry apple shots”, of Fat Stone Farm being sold – swearing by a smoothie he makes from it for boosting his health and immune system.

Looking back now on the interview, one thing I learned about Atlantic Seafood was how hard everyone works there. That work is driven by a real passion for producing the best there is to find in sea food. One could hear this in the enthusiasm that came into everyone’s voices when they really got talking about how they ensure that their products are not just passable but top – notch.

These vegetables from local vendors are so perfect as to look more like a work of art than a bunch of recipe ingredients.

This month’s interview also grew my sense that Atlantic Seafood is truly different and special as a business. This is because the company is driven by more than profit. While raising the bar among local seafood vendors, the company also aims to help people in powerful ways. Healthy eating is introduced and encouraged through the store’s offerings and willingness to educate customers on the topic. Atlantic Seafood’s profits go not just into the pockets of those who work there, but toward worthy charitable causes in the community. Lisa’s mention of the original advertising budget all going to charity drives this point home. Atlantic Seafood also purposely seeks out small local businesses from which to buy products – thus supporting these businesses and making them better known.

In a business world where greed runs rampant and so many companies seem to have thrown ethics out the window, it is refreshing to see a company that has a heart and truly aims to make a difference in customers’ lives. Moreover, it is great to see that such a business is lasting and garnering the recognition that it deserves.

 

Be Sociable, Share!
Categories : Blog

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.