Buying Local With Santa Monica Seafood
Written By: Marissa Wright
Photographed By: Dhrumil Desai
Expert Name: Patrick “Paddy” Glennon
Credentials: VP of Sales, former professional fisherman, chef and fishmonger
Humans have been consuming fish since they first lived by the water – or figured out how to catch them. It is estimated that the world consumes 135 million tons of seafood annually with seven million tons of that being consumed in the US alone. Fish and seafood as food sources offer a litany of health benefits and as an added bonus it’s versatile and relatively easy to prepare in the kitchen. Personally, I have been eating just about anything that you could pull out of the water since I was old enough to feed myself with silverware. My Portuguese, east coast family ensured that I would know good seafood if nothing else. With that said, it is important to know where your seafood is coming from, and when you purchase through Santa Monica Seafood, you know you are buying local.
Santa Monica Seafood is quality and so much more than I realized. In this day and age where you have to ask more questions about where your food is coming from, it’s nice to have businesses like Santa Monica Seafood who can take the guess work out of it.
Born and raised on the east coast, Patrick “Paddy” Glennon started working with fish as a deckhand and dock worker when he was a teen. He worked his way up to being a professional fisherman before moving on to become a chef. These days he channels his passions into the work he does with Santa Monica Seafood as their VP of Sales. Not your average salesman, Paddy dons multiple hats as an advocate for local fisherman, educator, and chef while trying to promote the values that Santa Monica Seafood has had all along. It is through our conversation with Paddy that we see just how important buying local is for Santa Monica Seafood.
Q: How long have you been with Santa Monica Seafood?
Paddy Glennon: It will be nine years this May, but I’ve been in the industry for 24 years; I was even a professional fisherman as a kid.
Q: What is Santa Monica Seafood’s stance on buying local?
PG: Santa Monica Seafood likes to think “local” as in US caught because we have the most regulations. So when people shop US caught first, they’re taking the guessing out of it. When they go international, they’re adding the questions of: how it was caught, where it was caught, what type of gear was it caught with? And they’re forgetting what was the life like for the people forced to catch and work for these things. We directly support local fisherman in a positive way. So much so, that the buying matrix at Santa Monica Seafood is: We will buy local over imported of the same species when available, even if it’s a higher price. That’s just the stance we take, and we try to outwardly educate the chef community to let them understand we need to support them when they have the fish available. That’s part of sustainability.
Q: How would Santa Monica Seafood define sustainability?
PG: On a global level, sustainability is something that perpetuates itself. That you’re not taking away from the future of a species or when it comes to farming, something that is not negative to the surrounding environment. Something raised in a way that doesn’t create any environmental mishap or doesn’t partake in other oceanic species being overfished.
Q: Where does Santa Monica Seafood stand on farm-raised vs. wild-caught talk? There is a lot of negative information out there…
PG: The conversation out there is bits and pieces, and people are misunderstanding the sustainability of fish. A lot of people say farmed fish is bad, but that is not always necessarily true. Farming of seafood has been around since the early Egyptian time and it is a protein source for the world, but it has to be done in a manner that is not negative to the environment. People have to look at it species by species, and we constantly educate.
Q: Can you tell us about RSVP (Responsible Sourcing Vendor Program) and what projects Santa Monica Seafood is working on right now?
PG: RSVP was championed by our Vice President of Strategic Purchasing/Responsible Sourcing, Logan Kock, who is very environmentally forward thinking. Through the RSVP program, all of our suppliers give us a rebate on everything we buy. We work with a third-party nonprofit organization called Fish Wise, and Fish Wise gets 100 percent of the funds. Fish Wise audits ocean recovery and ocean sustainability programs for us so the funds can make a direct impact. We have an educational aspect of it, and the funds were given this year to the Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano. We are in the midst of doing a tilapia garden, and it’s a cool program as part of the South Orange County Student Educational Program. Off of Oceanside, we have a gear study for swordfishery so we can minimize the impact of bycatch and fish without any negative impact on the environment. In Puget Sound, through our RSVP program, we are paying for divers to go down and pull up the old gear, derelict gear we call it, that snap off the back of boats and fall to the bottom of the ocean floor.Since September 2014, over 5, 000 derelict nets have been removed off the ocean floor. It’s all this forward thinking that we want to be funding and encouraging research. We like to use the term “responsibly sourced” because it encompasses everything.
Q: What does “responsibly sourced” mean to Santa Monica Seafood?
PG: It means a lot of travel and a lot of research. It means a pile of forms and paperwork that every vendor has to start by filling out, basic safety requirements and those sort of things. Mary went to China with Logan, and they went with the Monterey Bay Aquarium and spoke to the Chinese government as to what we expect. Do you understand the stance that is as a company? We’re saying, “Hey, you want us to push and buy your product? These are the changes we want you to implement for us to get behind you.” That’s what we do. We go to the international summits. We are a voice. We are a large company, and we take out our pocketbook and we make changes through our purchases.
Q: So you mentioned the “buying matrix” at Santa Monica Seafood and that buying local always comes first, but how do the rest of the decisions go?
PG: The decisions made at Santa Monica Seafood are just like what we’re trying to teach chefs in the Ecology Program – sustainability is always part of the decision. We support even the commodity farms who are using the proper practices first. That’s where we start. They don’t have the product, then we have to go to the other farms. Sometimes through the gestation or the growth in pens, they don’t have the right sized fish for us but we start here first. It’s always first. When local swordfish are running, we always buy those first. And we also buy local swordfish that are of a size that have reproduced at least once. We don’t buy the pups, which are cheaper, but that’s not what we buy. In the summertime when Mahi Mahi is the off cycle for the year, we will work out of the Mexican fisheries that are certified fisheries as opposed to the non-certified fisheries. When we come to market, we will be higher price guaranteed. Take it or leave it. We’ll try to be competitive with that purchase and sometimes we have to say goodbye to the business. And that’s a hard stance, but that’s the way we work. And I think if you see the size of our clientele, people are getting behind those values. There’s no secret in the fishing world, if it sounds too good to be true – it is not true. We don’t like to bash other companies or bash the way people do business; we just try to show them step by step, item next to item. We do cuttings of fish to show them the difference, and usually they realize, “Wow, I thought I was getting this the whole time, and I wasn’t.” And thus the price.
Q: Yeah, I had seen that seafood fraud is a huge problem. I didn’t even know that seafood fraud existed before I did a little research.
PG: Well it exists and happens too often, like what people call “Scottish” Salmon. Once that salmon is taken off the bone, they can ship Canadian fish or other commodity fish. They can’t taste the difference, and the filets look the same. And that’s why we stand by our fish and track our orders all the way back to the guy who received it to the purchase order it went to. The purchase order sometimes goes all the way back to the boat that it came from. We have that on every box we ship. We are able to trace it and know exactly where it came from. We are monitored with a contract from Monterey Bay Aquarium, so they know everything pound by pound of what we sell.
Q: How else is Santa Monica Seafood trying to change the seafood industry?
PG: We are teaching outwards. Logan and Mary’s been a part of that too, teaching at the Boston Seafood Show that happens every year. They’ve been teaching the RSVP program in open discussion. We have our own ranking of sustainability sales. We even teach it on our invoices, it has a Monterey Bay Aquarium rating 1-4 gpa average for the chefs. Last year we formed Sea Pact, based on our own RSVP program, with 5 other like-minded companies. Sea Pact now consists of 9 members. A lot of these are gear studies, a lot of them are tracking illegal fishing boats. When they’ve been tagged as an illegal fishing boat, we make it so it’s almost impossible for them to unload internationally. They can change the flags, and they change the owners, but we still track them. So we’re trying to stop illegal fishing aggressively through these programs.
Q: What do you want people to think when they hear Santa Monica Seafood?
PG: We want people to leave their worries at the door. We have experts working around the clock to provide you with food that you can eat without worrying. Celebrate your birthday, chow down at your super bowl party and leave the rest to us.
Native Knowledge: Santa Monica Seafood Cafe uses seasonal ingredients from farmers markets to bring local flavors to your plate, but tables are limited so make sure you get there early. They’re on the docks in Morro Bay when the sun comes up. As direct buyers of Central Coast and Southern California seafood (like Swordfish, Dungeness Crab, Rockfish, Sablefish, Uni Roe and more) they’re able to offer the freshest local seafood at the best price possible.
Easy Recipe From Paddy: Broiled Sablefish (AKA: Butterfish or Black Cod) With a Ginger-Soy Glaze
1 lb sablefish filet
½ cup chopped green onions
1 tbsp sesame seeds
Ginger-Soy Marinade Ingredients:
1 cup soy sauce
¾ cup of mirin
1 tbsp fresh ginger (shredded)
1 ½ tsp garlic (chopped)
1 ½ tbsp sesame oil
4 tbsp brown sugar
Marinate sablefish portions in sauce for at least 30 minutes. Bake portions on a baking pan in a preheated oven at 450 degrees for about 12-14 minutes or until meat almost pulls apart. Remove the fish from the oven, switch oven to broil and garnish fish with chopped green onions and sesame seeds. Return the pan to the middle rack of oven, broil for another 2-4 minutes until top is brown and slightly crispy. Serves two.
Fun Fact: Paddy sports a mohawk for his boxing matches.
Santa Monica Seafood