Dan Rattiner's Stories

Dock to Dish: Fisherman Jones on the ‘Judy II’ Caught the Fish I’m Eating

The next time you open a menu at a fine restaurant in the Hamptons, you may find a leaflet that informs you that the special that night is tuna, caught at Coxes Ledge by Captain Bryan Fromm aboard his Flying Dutchman fishing boat out of Montauk earlier today.

Yup. It has come to that. The restaurant owners can do that if they want.

Restaurants and fishing boat captains on the East End have been expanding this program called Dock to Dish for the last five years. It is now in many places around the world (Los Angeles, Vancouver, Costa Rica, Nicaragua). Fishing boat captains and restaurants will sign up for the service and be able to track local fishing boats, gather up all the information on a computer and make it available to the restaurant the catch is sold to when the ship comes into the dock.

Dock to Dish began as a cooperative five years ago, co-founded by Sean Barrett, a fisherman in Montauk. It merges two ideas. One, that things can be tracked on a computer; and the other, that all the information about fresh fish should become known to the restaurant that serves it.

Early on, Nick & Toni’s in East Hampton became a member. Le Bernardin and Telepan in Manhattan became members. They reportedly paid $2,500 a month for a weekly delivery of 100 pounds. It could be bigeye tuna, scallops, striped bass or porgy (now called sea bream). It all depended on what was running.

As this program has grown in the last few years, the project has now expanded beyond its original scope, and now allows restaurants to sign up and track what they order. They will be able to see just where the boat went, what it caught and when it caught it. It will soon be your fish, cooked up after the waitress took your order at the restaurant you are sitting in.

Restaurants will be able to track their fish just like they would from a package from Amazon or UPS. They can track a fish. The very one you are about to eat.

Barrett was inspired by several factors. For one thing, he saw farm produce being sold at farm stands and cooperatives out here on the East End, freshly picked and sold direct to customers. For another, he saw that the present fish-house model—where you fillet and pack fish in ice and send it on to New York City for distribution around the world—meant that you never knew where the fish would wind up. The vast majority of fish caught in our waters winds up overseas.

The continuing but smaller connection between the fishing boat captains and the local restaurants and taverns had continued on, but information on it had never been exactly available. He would make it so. And he has.

A brief visit to docktodish.com shows that the 2.0 model is about to be launched. Meanwhile, Dock to Dish as a cooperative between the fishermen and the restaurants continues. So the restaurant knows. All they’ve have to do is add a leaflet to the menu, if that’s what they want to do.

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