We are proud to introduce one of our newest vendors, Heritage Seafood, to our Farmhouse Delivery Family! Funny thing is, you’ve probably experienced their incredible fish selections before. Chef Ben has been supplying local restaurants and chefs in the Austin and Houston areas with fresh caught seafood from the Gulf and surrounding areas since 2016. We caught up with Heritage Seafood to learn more about their start, the truth behind some old fishing myths, and the new products coming to Farmhouse Delivery this summer.
What’s your background and what led you to begin Heritage Seafood?
I’m a 7th generation Texan, and grew up on the coast in a tiny town in Southeast, Texas. Food was always at the center of our family gatherings, especially Gulf seafood & crawfish. As an adult, I started down a path in the culinary field, skipping culinary school, and working my way up from flipping burgers to running kitchens. After years in the burgeoning Houston & Austin restaurant scenes, I was offered an opportunity to open a restaurant in Singapore. This led to running kitchens in Istanbul, London & eventually Miami. About a year after my wife and I returned stateside, we found out that we were going to have a baby, I was working crazy hours, opening a restaurant, and felt like I was missing out on so much of my family’s daily life. I wanted a break from kitchen life, and had been brainstorming about what my next move should be. A fishmonger I worked with in Austin called me to say he was retiring & asked if I’d be interested in getting into the fish game so a few days later my wife and I made plans to move our family back to Austin.
Can you walk us through starting Heritage Seafood and how you have arrived at where Heritage Seafood is today?
We started out not knowing much about the complicated world of the fish game, and I did a lot of hands on learning and mitigating disaster at first. I always knew I wanted to highlight all of the beautiful products the Gulf has to offer, support the local industry, and give a true dock to door experience for our talented local chefs. Honesty that first year of business was pretty intense, but over time I was able to gain the trust of local fishermen and make more and better connections on the coast. By our second year in business things were running pretty smoothly & I was definitely feeling a lot more confident. Now, almost 4 years in, I still try to focus on the very best of Texas seafood, but also have utilized connections from all of the world to offer a broader range of products that my restaurant customers demand.
Can you walk us through how you source your products and what makes Heritage Seafood different?
I source my Gulf seafood directly from the fishermen, often helping to unload the boats, and hand picking my portion of the catch. I also work with a great network of suppliers across the country to fill my customers’ non-Gulf seafood needs with the best quality products from around the world. I keep an eye on things like sustainability practices, and impact.
What brought you to Farmhouse Delivery? What made you want to partner with Farmhouse to provide Heritage Seafood products to our community?
I am always looking for ways to expand my businesses partnerships. The Farmhouse Delivery brand definitely aligns with the ethos of Heritage Seafood of providing the highest quality products that are as local and sustainable as possible. When Covid-19 hit, overnight I was effectively out of business alongside my restaurant customers. I have wanted to form a partnership with Farmhouse for some time, but was previously too busy with filling restaurants orders and needs. Now seemed like a natural time to push forward, and help fill the need for quality retail seafood, while also continuing to support our local fishing industry.
Is there anything you wish people knew about Texas seafood or any common misconceptions that you can debunk for us?
The Gulf, often referred to as ‘The Dirty Coast’ is an extremely diverse ecosystem, and provides an amazingly diverse selection of seafood from Stone Crab to Tuna, and everything in between. I think that it’s a common misconception that Gulf Seafood is of a lower quality, but having worked in high end kitchens all over the world, I can say that a lot of what I see locally is comparable to even the most sought after seafood products from around the world. Also,[there’s a misconception] that boats fish and unload when they can, not on a schedule. So the “don’t buy fish on Monday”, is false!. The weather has more to do with fisheries than what day of the week it is.
What is something you wish people knew about the importance of supporting local farmers and producers?
The product is almost always better, and when you support local economies you strengthen your community. The world is a pretty crazy place, and building strong communities, especially around food resources is something I think we should all get behind.
We already have your American Red Snapper, Yellowfin Tuna, and Yellowedge Grouper available on the marketplace but we are excited to keep working with you and bringing more products to the Farmhouse Family. Are there any things we should keep an eye out for or anything upcoming you want to talk about?
The summer is always an exciting time in the Gulf of Mexico! I am expecting to see more species at the docks soon. I am looking forward to bringing flounder, cobia, wahoo, and kingfish in from Freeport and Galveston. We are also discussing bringing in high quality farmed fish, such as salmon, halibut, and trout.
Photo credit: Jenna Northcutt, Edible Austin