Coastal Seafoods turns 30: Chef Chat, part 3

It's not Pike Place Market in Seattle. Coastal Seafoods employees don't shout at the customers or hurl fish at each other like footballs. They are polite Minnesotans. They hand you your nicely wrapped purchase in a friendly way. Both the Minneapolis and St. Paul retail stores are sparkling clean and unfishy-smelling. Over the past 30 years, Coastal Seafoods president Suzanne Weinstein and general manager Tim Lauer have led us to believe that Midwesterners have the same right to eat delightfully fresh fish as Pacific Northwesterners. And so we do, without all that shouting and hurling.

In the final installment of our Coastal Seafoods chef chat (see our Chef Chats, parts 1 and 2), Weinstein and Lauer reveal some of the more eccentric aspects of their lives. We asked Weinstein what she'd really like to talk about, and she said...

Knitting. Excuse me? I love knitting. I spend most of my free time at Steven Be. Do you know that place? It's like "Cheers" for knitters--people just go there to hang out and work on their knitting. Everybody knows your name.

Did you knit that beautiful scarf? I crocheted it, actually. I also work with jewelry, beads, polymer clay, lots of things. I have a large body of work of that type.

Jahn Brink politely weighs your order
Jahn Brink politely weighs your order

Tim, you told us yesterday that many of the suppliers you deal with are, shall we say, "independent-minded." Can you give an example? Well, we used to get a kind of shrimp from Belize called "laughing bird" shrimp. They were a wonderful little shrimp, sustainably farmed, fed a vegetarian diet, no chemicals or preservatives. The ponds where they were farmed were owned by one family, so that family controlled the entire supply. Then last year the owner died in a plane crash. The son had no interest in the business. He drained the ponds and got rid of all the shrimp. Now laughing bird shrimp are gone. Forever.

But...but... And that's just a very small market. What I'm really worried about are the Chinese. China is a huge, huge market, and they don't care about regulations and laws in terms of harvest limits. If they wanted to harvest all the Chilean sea bass in the entire world, for example, they could do it, and that would be the end of Chilean sea bass.

We're headed for disaster! We're all gonna die! Now, now. I think things are changing, but not necessarily toward disaster. Some people in the Pacific Northwest think it's disastrous that people are eating farm-raised salmon. But I think it's great that I can sell fresh salmon with a small environmental impact. When I was a kid, fish sticks were made out of haddock and halibut. Now they're whiting and pollock. They're different, but that's not necessarily bad. We're not running out of fish; we're getting better at controlling harvests.

Except for the Chinese. Oh, and the Russians.

Great. Suzanne, on this occasion of Coastal Seafoods' 30th anniversary, is there anything you'd like to add? Just that ... I've had the world's most fabulous employees. I've worked with so many great people, I couldn't have done it without them. I'm going to cry! I'm so grateful to everyone who's been along with me on this journey.

One big happy family: Jahn Brink, Brian Nelson, Tim Lauer, Damon Holston, Jon Vaughn, Suzanne Weinstein
One big happy family: Jahn Brink, Brian Nelson, Tim Lauer, Damon Holston, Jon Vaughn, Suzanne Weinstein
Lu Lippold

COASTAL SEAFOODS 2330 Minnehaha Ave S., Minneapolis 612.724.7425

74 S. Snelling (at Grand), St.Paul 651.698.4888 Coastal Seafoods website

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