The Fisherman

Sean Barrett

Job:Founder, Dock to Dish
Reps:Montauk, NY

Green cred: Barrett’s seafood epiphany came while watching Basque fishermen come back to the port at sunset in San Sebastian, Spain. “They came right into the restaurant [I was in] with their wicker baskets with a mackerel here, a little tuna there, and 10 minutes later the waiter wipes down the board with what they just brought,” he says. “I thought, That’s it! That’s the way it was preindustrialization — a real catch of the day, before it got corrupted.”

Barrett began a 15-year odyssey to launch Dock to Dish, a sustainable, community-supported fishery (CSF). The model started like a CSA: Seafood lovers pay a membership fee to regularly receive catches of the day from a network of local fishermen. But Barrett saw his results, business, and impact explode when he ran with chef Dan Barber’s idea of expanding the model to the restaurant level.

Dock to Dish achieves triple-threat results: It protects fish populations by focusing on the supply of sustainable species vs customer demand, sends dollars to local American fishermen instead of overseas, and offers immaculate seafood for the world’s most discerning eaters. Started in the New York area, Dock to Dish now also operates in Vancouver, Los Angeles, Boston, and Key West.

“You’re solving a whole lot of problems by creating a supply-driven market for seafood.”

What to expect in 2016: Barrett is in talks to expand to London and Costa Rica, and Mario Batali’s high-end supermarket Eataly will soon feature Dock to Dish seafood.

“The same global commodity problems that exist in L.A. exist in London. If you solve that problem, it translates globally,” he says. “You can translate it anywhere there’s a stable government and port and people willing to enjoy fresh seafood.”

Google has signed on to source all the seafood it feeds 12,000 employees in a massive New York City office exclusively from Dock to Dish, too.

“A lot of people are looking at this model and how to scale it,” Barrett says. “It would not be the panacea, but you’re solving a whole lot of problems by creating a supply-driven market for seafood.”

Chef’s dream: Culinary luminaries like Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Le Bernardin’s Eric Ripert, and Spotted Pig’s April Bloomfield all source from Barrett. Dock to Dish serves 19 restaurants in New York, has a waiting list of 75 more, and still feeds 980 families through the CSF.

Fresh flavors: Barrett champions obscure species that offer whole new flavor profiles. “Golden tilefish is abundant,” he says. “We call it poor man’s lobster because its main prey — baby lobsters, crabs — translates into this sweet, dense flesh,” he says.

The bluefish’s charms are even stranger. “It’s got a certain enzyme that, as soon as [the fish] dies, within 20 to 48 hours turns it into a mushy pudding,” he says. “But if you get to it in 6 to 20 hours, it’s this nutrient-dense flesh that makes the most amazing sashimi … I saw people at a party confuse it for high-grade tuna.”

Scarier than jaws: What keeps Barrett up at night? “Climate change. I can answer that question in two words,” he says. “That is my governing source of anxiety. We’re catching bonitos, black sea bass, gooseneck barnacles — these are things from way down south, Carolina-based fisheries, and now we’re overrun.”

Photograph by Mirella Cheeseman