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Top Chef and Hampton Bays Captain Kickstart Fishing/Cooking Show

Captain Ralph Towlen.
Captain Ralph Towlen with a 51-pound tile fish. Photo: seafoodsafari.com

Hampton Bays resident Ralph Towlen, a school teacher with a charter fishing business, is planning a television show that takes viewers from the sea to the table with Top Chef Masters runner-up Kerry Heffernan.

To get his idea off the ground, Towlen has turned to the crowd-funding website Kickstarter in hopes of raising the money necessary to produce a broadcast quality trailer for the series, Seafood Safari.

Each episode will be split into two parts, Towlen explains. The first will be out on a boat—or diving around a ship wreck—to catch the fish. In the second half, Heffernan will demonstrate how to cook up the catch of the day. There will be a focus on sustainable practices.

Towlen plans to incude both rod-and-reel fishing and underwater spearfishing and hand harvesting. Heffernan is an avid fisherman, having won the Montauk Redbone and other tournaments, and Towlen operates his Coastal WG Charters at Jackson’s Marina in Hampton Bays.

He will take underwater photographers to the same shipwrecks where he takes his charter clients to get sea scallops, lobsters, fluke—30 different types of fish in all that he can take under fishing regulations. “I have 14 different permits, federal and state, to cover everything,” he says.

They have already filmed one class at De Gustibus, the cooking school and culinary theater on the eighth floor of the Macy’s flagship in Manhattan. “It’s a place where top chefs around the country come and showcase,” Towlen says.

Towlen’s Kickstarter goal is $3,500. That includes the $1,000-per-minute cost to make the three-minute trailer, plus $500 for rewards for backers and the postage. So far, he has 30 backers and $2,320 raised, with 14 days to go.

He has enlisted videographer and scuba diver Peter Bucknell of New York Video Services to shoot the trailer. Towlen has taken to calling the trailer a “sizzle,” giving a quick take of what the show will be about. He says it is very difficult to get a television idea in front of the right person. “The bottom line is nobody looks at anything unless it’s professionally done,” he says, so he will ensure the trailer is of the highest quality.

He does not know where exactly the project will go. “It’s taking off crazy, like a runaway train,” he says. Seafood Safari may go the way of cable, or to an Internet outlet.

For more information on Seafood Safari and the KickStarter campaign, visit kickstarter.com and seafoodsafari.com

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