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A Renewed Focus on Fresh Fish

Thu, 05/02/2024 - 20:23
Amanda Jones and K.C. Boyle on the fishing boat Amanda Joy, owned by her husband, Capt. Shaun Jones. Mr. Boyle and the Jones family are among the new owners of the Dock to Dish fishing collective.
Tim Regan, @southforksalt

Dock to Dish, a restaurant-supported fishery cooperative founded in Montauk in 2012, has new owners and a renewed focus on getting fresh-from-the-boat seafood directly into the kitchens of restaurants across the East End and the New York area. And the fact that most of the owners are also fishermen doesn’t hurt.

The six fishing families who own Inlet Seafood in Montauk took over Dock to Dish in November along with K.C. Boyle, who is overseeing day-to-day operations. “The idea is just like the previous iteration of Dock to Dish: Work to source the best ingredients on earth,” Mr. Boyle said Friday while making deliveries in New York City.

Fresh off a three-month pilot program, the new Dock to Dish officially launched at the end of April. “Week after week, we scaled up,” Mr. Boyle said. “There are a lot of complexities with the supply chain that we have to deal with: packing, coordinating with the fleet.”

“We took on a handful of restaurants in the beginning, and we worked out all the kinks and really catered to them intently . . . before we went public,” said Amanda Jones, whose husband, Capt. Shaun Jones of the fishing vessel Amanda Joy, is another owner of Dock to Dish. “We hope to be at 5,000 pounds a week really shortly.”

Mr. Boyle, who lives in Montauk, has a background in restaurants and most recently worked with the Billion Oyster Project in New York Harbor. The other owners of Dock to Dish are Ms. Jones’s father-in-law, Capt. Richard Jones of the fishing vessel Scup, Capt. Kevin Maguire of the Evening Prayer and his son Capt. Tyler Maguire of the Tomahawk, Capt. Charles Weimar Sr. of the Rianda and his son and grandson Capt. Charles Weimar Jr. and Charles Weimar III of the Mildred, Capt. Dave Aripotch of the Caitlin and Mairead, and two retired commercial fishermen, Stuart Foley and William Grimm.

Most of them have been fishing commercially for over 50 years and are “among the most experienced” in Montauk’s fleet, Mr. Boyle said. “One hundred percent of the fish we provide comes from the waters off Long Island. Rather than exporting it overseas, we’re trying to keep it here locally. It’s a very simple model.”

The goal is to profile and sell not only the local catches that people already know, but to elevate lesser-known and underappreciated species, like royal red shrimp. Caught in deep waters off Montauk, they are “extremely abundant,” Mr. Boyle said.

“Fishermen are used to fishing for one species,” he said, because they know there is a market for them. The Dock to Dish model allows them to monetize a more diverse catch. Working directly with restaurants, “We help to build a market for fish that may not be always known about. It’s a win-win-win.”

Why should branzino and Chilean sea bass be on the menus of New York restaurants when they could instead have fluke, black sea bass, or porgy, landed right off Montauk and delivered to their kitchen doors?

The fishing families involved in Dock to Dish welcome “any opportunity to get lesser-known species out there and known and to be able to actually sell them and get paid for them quickly,” Ms. Jones said. With the royal red shrimp, for example, “we never targeted them,” she said. “We always caught them as bycatch.” Now, thanks to Mr. Boyle’s efforts with Dock to Dish, these shrimp that “come from the deepest, cleanest, clearest water” are finding a way from boat to restaurant.

“It’s awesome to be able to get our product directly from our boats to the consumer, which is usually not the case,” Ms. Jones said. “It usually takes anywhere from two to four weeks to get it from our boats to the consumer, and it touches three to five middlemen before it gets to the consumer.”

“I think that’s what the draw was with Dock to Dish,” she said. “We feel like there’s no middleman. . . . We’re catching it and we’re selling it. The difference is that instead of a tractor-trailer to the city, it’s going on a Dock to Dish truck.”

The Dock to Dish market won’t replace its owners’ traditional markets. “Some days of the week we’re sending 100,000 pounds of fish to the city,” Ms. Jones said. “This is just a different avenue.”

Among the restaurants the collective is working with are Nick and Toni’s in East Hampton, the Crow’s Nest and Duryea’s in Montauk, Per Se, Frenchette, and Ilis in New York City, and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Tarrytown, N.Y.

The company already buys from dozens of fishermen based in Montauk and has started to buy from commercial fishermen out of Shinnecock and will expand to Greenport, too.

“We will ultimately be working with more than 100 boats across Long Island,” Mr. Boyle said.

 

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