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We Sit Down With Director of Retail Operations Bob Vogel to Discuss What’s New and Next in the Seafood Empire

Written By: Christine Williamson See What’s Under the Sea at Santa Monica Seafood
Photographed By: Taylor Lewis

If you’re native to Los Angeles, you’re lucky. You grew up in one of the most culturally diverse cities in America and you were raised with a palate that’s had the opportunity to savor everything from sticky Korean chicken wings, superior seafood and indisputably the best tacos north of the border.

If you’re new to Los Angeles, you’re also fortunate. Our city’s food scene has swelled in the past five years, giving rise to more chef-driven restaurants than ever. Food trucks have taken a back seat to beautiful brick and mortars, where atmosphere is just as important as what is on the plate.

This expert knows what Los Angeles is all about—unique cuisine, changing tastes, fresh ingredients and a creative look on what it means to bring people together over a good meal.

The Expert: Bob Vogel, Director of Retail Operations for Santa Monica Seafood
Favorite SMS Dish: Cioppino with a piece of rustic bread.
Plenty of Fish: Family owned and operated since 1939, Santa Monica Seafood has been an outright local favorite when it comes to serving the freshest and highest quality seafood available.  Santa Monica Seafood sources millions of pounds of fresh and frozen seafood every year, and aside from being a renowned full-service seafood distributor, they boast two local seafood markets and cafes; one in Costa Mesa, CA, and the other here in Santa Monica. Daily their markets offer more than 40 types of finfish, as well as, a wide variety of shellfish including crab, lobster, oysters and clams.
Dive Into Happy Hour: Santa Monica Seafood offers a wonderful happy hour. Enjoy $2-$5 oysters, beers, wines and appetizers. Monday-Friday from 2 p.m.-5 p.m.

Santa Monica Seafood sources an astounding 27 million pounds of fresh and frozen seafood every year, and they have been doing it since 1939. Aside from being a renowned full-service seafood distributor, Santa Monica Seafood boasts two local markets and cafes, one in Costa Mesa and the other in Santa Monica. They are family owned and operated, and an outright local favorite when it comes to serving the freshest and highest quality seafood available. We chat with Bob Vogel, Director of Retail and Commissary Operations, about all things under the sea.

Q: How important is sourcing sustainable seafood?

BV: It is extremely important to us. We have an entire department dedicated to sustainability and responsibly sourced seafood. We were heavily involved with sustainably before the word was popular. We were the first seafood distributor to enter into a formal partnership with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program. We created the first and only Responsible Sourcing Vendor Program wherein we apply a percentage of our annual seafood purchases towards helping fisheries around the world. We are the first and only seafood distributor to include a sustainability ranking on all customer invoices based on the level of sustainability of each product purchased.

Q: How large is your distribution range, and how much seafood do you distribute every day?

BV: Over the last four generations our opportunities have expanded in California from the Mexican border up to Monterey Bay. Since the late 90’s we’ve been distributing in the Las Vegas area, and we have distribution and processing facilities in Arizona servicing Phoenix and surrounding areas, Tucson and Sedona.  We’re currently approaching somewhere around 3, 500 food service elements, including restaurants, hotels and country clubs, which on an average day means we process and ship over 100, 000 pounds.

Q: What exotic species of fish excites you the most?

BV: That would have to be Opah. In the “old” days on Hawaii, Opah was a bycatch. Not many harvested from their local fisheries. The boat owners and captains would reserve selling Opah so that they could give or share with the crew or their neighbors as a friendship offering. I believe deeper elements of almost spiritual appreciation of the animal in that it is providing sustenance to one. They are absolutely exquisite. They have a rich, creamy taste and firm, fatty texture. They’re just fantastic.

Q: Grilled or raw fish?

BV: That’s a coin toss! I am a good home cook and I like to cook! There’s nothing that I’m afraid to try or enjoy. I suggest eating what you like and don’t be afraid to try something new. Eat raw. Sashimi grade seafood offers robust flavors you may not get if cooked.

Q: What kind of beer is best enjoyed with seafood?

BV: We’re blessed with all of the guys putting their hearts and souls into a craft beer. All of these new foodie beers stand up to more spicy things like a cioppino. Our Sam Smith Organic Ale is very popular. We also try to support local breweries a much as possible.

Q: What wine pairings wine do you enjoy with seafood?

BV: It depends on the delicacy of the fish. Something like a Dover sole, an Orange Roughy, fish that are light, white and flaky pair well with a nice Sauvignon Blanc or a lighter style Chardonnay. If you get something like a Yellowfin Tuna or a Bigeye Tuna, something that’s meaty and more steak-like, stands up to a great Pinot Noir. Something like grilled Swordfish with a mango salsa goes well with a nice Merlot or Syrah. These days it’s not quite as relegated that fish should be a white wine, steak should be a red wine. People buy what they like, and that’s what makes it all enjoyable.

Santa Monica Seafood
1000 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica CA, 90401
310.393.5244

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