Based in New York City for over 40 years and through two generations of family ownership, Lobster Place provides lobster and a full line of seafood for a wide diversity of restaurants and foodservice operators. Metro New York’s leading chefs and foodservice professionals turn to Lobster Place’s team of seafood professionals for caviar, crab, shrimp, lobster and the Tri-State area’s most comprehensive portfolio of fish from all over the world.
From the highly exotic: live sea urchin and wahoo to center of the plate favorites including Atlantic salmon and Yellow fin tuna, Lobster Place has built a reputation as the choice for the most comprehensive portfolio of fresh from the sea menu solutions. In addition to servicing the Tri-State foodservice trade from its processing facility in Hunts Point, Bronx, The Lobster Place also has a unique perspective of the industry through the operation of its own restaurant and retail store at Chelsea Market.
Total Food Service sat down with Joe Cooper, the Director of Wholesale Sales for Lobster Place, to discuss their perspective, capabilities, and seafood trends.
What brought you into the seafood business? Were you a chef or fishmonger?
I spent ten years as a restaurant chef before moving to the other side of the desk in a sales capacity.
What’s the biggest difference from where you sit today?
When you’re working in a restaurant, you don’t always really understand the in-depth difficulties of sourcing products. And all the logistics involved in getting all the fantastic products from all over the world.
What are chefs and food service operators looking for you to provide?
I love working with our full line of lobster and seafood products, being a resource for chefs and giving them the information that they don’t have. They’re looking for the newest trends, what’s seasonal and what are other people doing that’s exciting.
Chefs are so busy that they get stuck in the kitchen, they often just get stuck in a routine. So we look to provide a window into what competitors are serving.
Talk about some of the tools that you offer our readers to stay on top of seafood trends.
We communicate actively with our customers. At the Lobster Place we send out a newsletter three days a week, to inform everybody of market trends. We sell more than lobster, we sell a full line of sustainably caught seafood.
I’m curious in your 20 plus years in the industry, how has the seafood marketplace changed?
Chefs are using lobster in a lot more creative ways these days. We have a restaurant over at Chelsea Market. next to our retail store. Our chef does a lobster ramen which is a different kind of spin. I’ve seen lobster benedicts on menus. In the East Village Nagam does a lobster Thai dumpling with a khao soi sauce.
So is lobster still a traditional center of the plate protein in your mind or an ingredient, what’s the fit?
I think when people think about lobster, they think about a luxury item. But I think a lot of operators now are trying to figure out ways to get people to add a lobster roll to a menu. The goal is to find a more economical solution and still sell a higher ticket item on their menu. There’s a lot more fast casual places that now feature lobster on their menus with lobster salads and lobster rolls. It has even become a big brunch item.
There’s never been more talk about healthier eating. Seems to me through the years lobster has taken a bad rap.
Look, all shellfish are a little bit higher in cholesterol. The reality is like any other food, when people cook it in butter or oil, it evolves into something else. However, it is a healthy low fat, high protein alternative when its just steamed. It’s whatever you make of it, in terms of how you prep.
Every year the battle rages on as the superiority of Maine vs. Nova Scotia lobsters?
We primarily get our lobsters from Canada. We do split between Canada and Maine depending on the seasons and what harvest areas are open at certain times of the year. Most of our chefs and foodservice clientele prefer hard-shell lobsters. The water is colder the further north you go and so you get a harder shell. I mean this time of year as the weather is getting warm you get firm shells. We sell firm shells. We do not sell soft shell lobsters because they are an inferior product.
What advice do you have for chefs looking to add tuna to their menus?
With our Tuna/Swordfish program, we purchase, grade and butcher over 20,000 lbs. of Yellowfin and Bigeye Tuna each month. We apply the strictest grading standards to our tuna– ensuring its color and texture meet the demanding specs of NYC kitchens.
We can trace every tuna loin we sell back to its original date of delivery, vendor and country of origin – giving a somewhat unprecedented margin of excellence to your food safety program.
With so much focus on ‘”Local to Table”, wherever possible, we source domestically harvested sword – fish from the docks of Barnegat Light, New Jersey and Boston.
Many broadline distributors have added seafood specialists. What does The Lobster Place offer that an operator can’t get from a broadliner?
We’ve been doing this for 42 years. It’s all we do. Our team’s expertise has branched out to encompass all aspects of seafood. Lately there’s so much focus on an item like Lionfish. It’s our job to be the seafood market eyes and the ears for that chef who is crazy busy keeping up with the needs of his customer base.
To learn more about Lobster Place’s wholesale operations, visit their website.