It is a hot August morning in Seaport. This part of the city is usually thick with tourists and diners but this early in the morning they are nowhere to be seen. I’m at Red’s Best on the Boston fish pier, and it is busy with fisherman delivering their latest catch and men in waders scaling and cleaning fish to be sent to different restaurants all over the city.
Red’s Best is a seafood dealer; the company procures catches from fisherman up and down Cape Cod and handles distribution of the catch to restaurants, retailers and home buyers in Boston. If you’ve eaten seafood at a restaurant in Boston, chances are it came through here.
This morning, I see beautiful live scallops, horseshoe crabs, bluefish, monkfish, clams and more. Some of the fish are still in rigor mortis from being caught not too long ago and the horseshoe crabs are wriggling on their backs, stretching their tentacles and legs, crawling all over one another in their crate. The men in charge of getting the fish off of the dock and into the refrigerated warehouse are moving as quickly as possible, moving large amounts of fish and ice; counting, sorting and cleaning in a fluid motion. A fork lift darts in and out of the warehouse moving the larger catches (stored in large ice bins) from truck, to dock and finally, to warehouse.
I asked Robert Chandler, Operations Manager at Red’s Best, what chefs can do to make sure that they get the freshest product available and what chefs do that drive him crazy. Below, he breaks down what chefs can do to get the best product for their restaurants.
The best thing chefs can do is buy seasonally. Here, you’ll come back in three months and it will be completely different. It’s constantly changing. Chefs can come down here, to the pier, and see what we’re getting and talk to us that way they know what to expect from catches.
It drives me nuts when some chef reads a back-dated article about John Dory and all of sudden in the middle of our summer here and winter in New Zealand, the chef needs to have John Dory. By the time that fish gets here, it has been put through the ringer and it has flown from halfway across the world. It also costs a fortune to get it and by the time the chef gets it, he’s not happy. You can get really high quality fish if you use what’s coming from the water near you.
Know where your fish came from. Buy seasonally and as local as possible. If you follow that mantra, you should be getting some really fresh product.
Red’s Best is located at 13-15 Boston Fish Pier in Boston.