Heritage Seafood by Ben McBride Brings Dock Fresh Gulf Fish to Austin
In Austin, when you hear the phrase “keep it local” it does not invoke thoughts of fresh seafood! That goes for most Texans not living on or near the Gulf Coast (also referred to as ‘The Third Coast’). There can be an out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality when it comes to the gulf, and for those who have visited, we can agree it’s not the beach you are writing home about (there’s a reason why it’s called “the dirty third”).
For those of us who grew up on the coast, it is the place we call home. A place that reminds us of our childhood, and a place that is a central part of our heritage. One Chef who holds this sentiment near to his heart has decided to bring these elements to Austin, Ben McBride. A native of Winnie, Texas, longtime resident of Austin and Uchi Alum, Ben recently started his own Gulf seafood company appropriately named Heritage Seafood.
“This is our Texas heritage. I grew up on the coast and this is personal. I want to broadcast to all Texans, we do have access to beautiful seafood right at our backdoor.”
His goal – “to obtain the freshest, best cared for fish from the Gulf of Mexico with the intention of offering chefs in Austin a dock to dock experience.” This experience will also “be catered to the needs and requests of the chefs,” and most of the fish he is receiving are still in rigor. You can’t get any fresher than that!
Ben, having grown up on the coast, has been dreaming about this project for years. After stints in Singapore and Miami, he moved back to Austin with the intention of starting this company and becoming Austin’s premiere Gulf fish monger.
Like most chefs in the industry, he has worked a cooks schedule for most of his career, usually getting home between 1 and 2AM. A typical day for Ben now usually begins around 2AM; a slight adjustment to say the least. He makes the four hour drive to Freeport, Texas to meet the fisherman on the docks at sunrise, where he helps them unload their haul. This is something that most fish mongers do not bother with. For Ben it is all about building relationships and paying his dues.
“I’m trying to create something special and to build strong relationships. I want them to know I’m here to help them,” says McBride.
Fishermen can be a salty bunch, and “they have their own language,” which is why this type of relationship building is crucial for Ben. His ultimate goal is to cater to the specific needs of chefs. He picks fish based on specific size, weight, and quality. He also breaks them down himself to ensure the quality. The result of these relationships has granted him first pick of the fish coming in (something that would appeal to any chef).
Since Ben has started Heritage Seafood, he has been approached by larger companies outside of Texas to push fish as a wholesaler – including a company based in Hawaii. This would mean more money, but for Ben, that would pull him away from his focus and his passion.
“This is our Texas heritage. I grew up on the coast and this is personal. I want to broadcast to all Texans, we do have access to beautiful seafood right at our backdoor. We need to work on how we procure it; how to handle it; and how to showcase it. Our seafood it is comparable to seafood from the rest of the globe,” proudly says McBride.