The people. The passion.
In the beginning it was just fishing with my brother and my dad. He was a steel fabricator and made a boat called Bear Flag when I was born. Life revolved around the boat, the Channel Islands, and spots in Mexico. Eventually I worked on other people’s boats. I did it all: captain, second captain, chef, deck hand, scrubber. I got restaurant jobs and was lucky to apprentice under great chefs like Tim Johnson at Zenbu Sushi.
I learned how to evaluate the quality of the fish, how it was treated. You can tell from the meat if the fish was relaxed or stressed when it was harvested. No matter what kind of fish it is, I only buy the best fish, and I love the search for it, the art and science of finding it. With every job I did, every trip I went on, every person I met, certain things stuck with me, before I even knew what I was getting into. I was pulled by the sea. It was time to start my own thing. I found a location and went all in. I couldn't afford an architect so I did the drawings with a pencil and ruler. My dad and I soldered the refrigeration lines in the kitchen.
We opened the doors in 2007 and people kept coming so we figured we were doing something right. We’ve learned a lot since then. Now I have my guys I go to, that I know have the best fish, and deal straight. We buy a lot of local fish, because it’s the best way to know what you’re getting.
Sustainability is a big issue. There better be fish for my grandkids and yours. And US fisheries are held to some of the highest sustainability standards around. We hold ourselves to those standards too, all the way down to the cups we use. I later read that Steinbeck described the Bear Flag establishment in his book Cannery Row as, “a decent, clean, honest, old-fashioned sporting house where a man can take a glass of beer among friends... a sturdy, virtuous club.” It was a pillar of the community. I thought that was fitting for this place too. Besides, everybody knew the boat. It was free marketing.
It’s been humbling to see how the community has supported us, and I’ve found myself in a position to give jobs and experience to the local kids. They bring their friends and their parents in to eat. Now some of them are off starting their own pop-up restaurants and other cool projects. It’s been seven years and we’re still here, working every day. There’s nothing better than going out in nature, harvesting food with your own hands, and providing it to the people you love. This is what we do.