Updated: Apr 11, 2020
Jen Levin is the founder and CEO of Gulf of Maine Sashim. This interview was taken during an online live chat from the Wharf in Portland Maine.
Hi Jen, Thank you for joining this live chat. Please tell us a little about yourself and the company you started.
Hi Jan, thank you for this invite.
Gulf Of Maine Sashimi is a new company. We work directly with fishermen who use specialized handling practices for extremely good quality. We have been working with fisherman who take really special care of their fish, which results in better quality and good shelflife. In exchange for this, we pay top dollar for the catch.
I was inspired to start this company because I was working with fishermen (prominently from the Gulf of Maine) when I was at the Gulf of Maine Research institute, running the sustainable seafood program. I saw that the prices were going down and boats were going out of business. And yet we weren't demanding even half of the allowable sustainable catch of our local waters.
Our products are fine but we can't compete on volume here, and so the idea is, as complicated it is to make our fish special and we make sure that we provide premium quality special products. It's a lower volume and we pay fishermen in exchange for this efforts and to keep them afloat, keep them on the water and provide service to chefs, and now to the community and making that fish available to you. That is what we are doing.
How did your day looked like before Covid19 and what changed?
So one week we were doing direct deliveries to area restaurants and shipping fish to distributors across the country, and then the next week, everybody stopped buying, it all shut down. And our heart was just broken for all the small business that are really hurting right now. And off course a group of small businesses that we work with next to the restaurants are the fishermen and thinking about all the markets that they typically have access to, stopped buying so now they don't have any income.
So our goal from the beginning was to see what we could do to just keep on showing up at the Wharf and keep on buying from the boats and moving the products in any way possible we could. So we started emailing groups of people, "Hey, you want to buy fish from us. We've got fish" and it took off. I can't even believe the community supported this idea ... 'keeping fishermen fishing' ...
So we have drop locations on parking lots in different towns. We put on our vest, and they park their car, it's already ordered and pre paid so we just drop the order in their truck. There is no contact so it is safe for everyone, which is really important. Plus our facility is extraordinary on a sanitation perspective. So we feel really good about the product, we feel really good about keeping everybody safe at this time.
One of the biggest changes is the change of our clientele. Chefs are accustomed to whole fish and the chefs we work with typically want to see the whole fish and then they break it down and use the whole thing. Since we sell to regular costumers we are selling packaged filets and what is really excited about that is that we actually hired some currently out of work chefs to filet all our fish. The Chefs are coming to our facility and doing this incredible job, breaking this fish down in filets so we are able to sell it to our market customers
Are you just delivering local, or are you still able to ship around the country?
We still ship to businesses, as we were doing before. Shipping direct to homes is a little bit more of a logistical challenge. Having said that, we are actually presently working on setting up a online portal that would enable shipping calculations and print labels. We are scheduling Fedex to come pick them up for delivery across the country. We had a lot of inquiries of folks who really wanted to have this fish, which is exciting.
How do you think the world will change? Nothing in our industry will be the same anymore.
Well, it is anybodies guess what will sticks and what will change. What we see is that a lot of people are getting more comfortable with cooking fish at home. We heard from a lot of people, since they started to buy fish from us, that they really started to love it. I think we will see more people getting more comfortable with cooking at home in general. But also, I have seen a lot of support for all the small businesses so I think people will be eager to go out and support the local restaurants in addition to cooking at home.
People already ask us to keep doing this after Covid19 is over. Well, doing our job, parking our van on a parking lot in the middle of the day will not be possible anymore if normal life continues. If people go back to work, those parking lots will be full of cars again. But yes, we want to be able to have this fish available for people and we are exploring what the possibilities might be. It will be a little bit different, but it definitely opened our eyes to this community, in addition to our chefs.
That is great! Well I make sure we buy some fish for our Cooking class at 6pm.
I would love to show how to cook one of your monkfish.
I really appreciate the invite. Thank you chef!
Gulf Of Maine Sashimi Fish 416 Commercial Street, Portland, Maine 04101 firstname.lastname@example.org https://gulfofmainesashimi.com