Attendees of the annual Dan’s Taste of Summer event, GrillHampton, held earlier this summer in Mecox, were thrilled to meet Octoman as he plied his delicious trade at the event.
Chef Stephen “Octoman” Fried talked fast as he handed out samples of the grilled cephalopod—joking that he’d just caught the octopus in Mecox Bay.
Fried is actually the corporate chef for Gullo Specialty Seafood. Owners Frank and Paula Gullo were born in Sicily, and their company is based in Hicksville, Long Island. Their main specialty is wild-caught, flash frozen and tenderized Spanish and Portuguese octopus and cuttlefish, sold wholesale and retail.
How is it tenderized? You have to see Octoman’s video on the Gullo Specialty Seafood website, gulloseafood.com, to understand how sea salt and ice water in stainless steel tumblers do the trick. Octoman says, “This provides for an easier–to–cook product with shorter cooking time, high yield and consistent quality. Also, the flavor and texture are far superior to regular commodity octopus.” The process has earned Gullo the right to advertise, “The freshest, sushi-grade Tenderized Octopus and Cuttlefish delivered right to your home.”
Do you feel a special connection to the octopus?
Since I work very closely with them, I feel a kindred spirit. I think they’re a pretty extraordinary species and very extraterrestrial-like.
What would you be doing today if you weren’t Octoman?
I love discovering great food items and introducing them to chefs, so I would probably be representing some products and traveling the world looking for specialized food to import and sell to chefs, as well as consumers. Also, I would be building my private chef business and cooking at various events, which I do now and love.
What are some of the common misconceptions people have about preparing and consuming octopus?
That it’s difficult to cook. That it’s too tough or rubbery. Also, many people feel, since octopus are so intelligent, they don’t want to eat them.
What’s your favorite way to enjoy octopus?
I love it in various ways. My favorite is simply grilled with a nice char and finished with lemon and a good olive oil. My signature “octo-dish” is a marinade of smoked Spanish pimento (paprika), extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar and chile flakes. Marinate, then grill, then put back in the marinade and finish with lemon.
What beverages do you like to pair with this preparation?
A cold Albariño, a grüner vetliner, vinho verde, a white Burgundy, sauvignon blanc—white, crisp wines with some minerality. Or some great crisp lager or pilsner.
Where do the best octopodes come from, in your opinion?
Spain and Portugal. It’s not only the waters they come from, but how they’re handled. Mediterranean octopus, I believe, are the best. Japan has great octopus as well, but it’s not as plentiful as it is in the Mediterranean area.
Have you hunted octopus yourself?
No I haven’t, but I would like to.
Does octopus have a particular season in different parts of the world?
Yes, there are times during the year when it’s mating and reproduction season and that’s when they are not allowed to be fished. I believe from January to April is fishing season and May and June no fishing, then from July to October you can fish again, and November and December no fishing. That’s for the Mediterranean, Portuguese and Spanish octopus.
What tips do you have for people who’d like to enjoy some octopus on Long Island this summer or fall?
As consumers they can buy our small, raw, tenderized and large pre–cooked tenderized legs at all Citarellas in The Hamptons and New York City. Whole Foods sells our cooked, tenderized tentacles in all their Long Island and Manhattan stores, and Baldor, the specialty food company, is now doing distribution six to seven days a week of our octopus to restaurants throughout the island.
As octopus is showing up on many menus across Long Island, our brand, Gullo, is leading the way and we’re proud to be able to provide our unique and wonderful tenderized octopus to so many Long Islanders.
Could you please explain the difference between “legs” and “tentacles” and why you don’t use the term “arms?”
Legs, arms, tentacles. All the same thing. Octopus really have two legs they use to walk on. Also, your audience may be interested: The male octopus uses one of its legs as its phallus and inserts it in the nostril area of the female to copulate. The male has learned to remove the leg once it’s inserted so the female doesn’t eat him. He will grow back the leg.