Ian remembers the day his parents,
Rod and Joan, decided to go into the lobster business. It was a summer
day in New York, heat seeping into every crevice and cranny, smog drooping
low to the ground. Then just a boy, Ian listened as his parents reminisced
about Maine where the sun shone against a bright blue sky, where the
family gathered for an old-fashionned lobster bake, cooking pots full
of lobsters and clams, potatoes and corn. Spurred by nostalgia, Rod
and Joan decided that day to start a business bringing lobster to New
York. Their goal, now accomplished, was to bring a stovetop lobster-bake
to New York.
Rod and Joan dreamed of languorous
summer days, but New York is not inclined to languor. Though their beginning
was as rocky as their beloved Maine coast, they persevered, bringing
only top quality lobsters to their business. Little by little, filling
requests from customers for other seafood, The Lobster Place grew into
a large wholesale/retail market, selling all varieties of seafood. It
has never lost the devotion of family, though, for Ian turned down business
school and the corporate world to join the business. It is his turn
to innovate, and the store now sells sauces and prepared salads, delivers
sushi and that stovetop lobster bake to apartment-locked New Yorkers.
Housed in New York's Chelsea Market,
The Lobster Place is a tranquil store to visit. The air is fresh, the
service attentive and knowledgeable, the seafood so fresh it glistens
under the lights. There is no hint of chaos - at least not in the afternoon
when we ordinary shoppers are casually thinking about dinner.
The reward for the MacGregor's hard
work, however, was to find that they were one of the places preferred
by the great restaurants of New York, and there's nothing casual about
food to a star chef in competitive New York. At 2:30 in the morning,
the great chefs have served the last of the dinners that will be written
about in newspapers and magazines, and wiped the last bead of sweat
from their brows. For the first time in hours, they sit in a chair.
Now they must be creative. Frazzled or no, they think and reach for
the phone to place orders. At The Lobster Place, all the phones are
Once the orders are taken, trucks
are dispatched to the Fulton Fish Market, New York's great wholesale
seafood market. Not as orderly or tranquil as a retail store, the Fulton
Fish market is for haggling, for wading through fish spills, for finding
the very best catch of the day. The MacGregor's make the rounds, haggling
to get the best price for the best fish. As they make their rounds,
they place their orders. When they are done, they return to the trucks
which are now stacked with fish.
Back to the Lobster Place. The fish
butchers are arriving for work, orders are being fulfilled, but wait
a minute this chef wanted sea bass, but the sea wasn't listening and
fishermen found no bass. Back to the phones, this time to leave messages
saying, no, sorry, none of that today, but a lot of this. Message machines
don't talk, but frantic chefs, waking after very few hours sleep, do
talk, and as the day wears on the business of providing the best of
everything to people who must produce the most glorious of dishes continues.
Trucks are in and out all day.
Meanwhile, in the Chelsea Market,
as the day moves on, casual shoppers such as you and I, stroll in to
see what looks good, perhaps to stop and have a bite of sushi made with
fish so fresh it melts in the mouth. It is tranquil in the store. When
we shop there, we pick out the same fish that Jean-Georges will be serving
tonight. We know one of a star chef's secrets - start with the freshest
fish you can find.