Peter Boudreau is a fishmonger, and he likes it.
He likes the word, the title and he likes what it means to be a fishmonger in a city like Halifax. After years of serving his customers at the old Halifax Farmer’s Market, he now has a space at the Seaport Market, with a storefront open 6 days a week, a milestone for fish and food lovers alike. Boudreau is a trained chef who has cooked at various restaurants in the city, and his understanding of chef’s needs is an asset to his customers. Passable sat down with Peter to talk about what it’s like to run The Fish Shop.
Image courtesy The Fish Shop
What is the story behind The Fish Shop?
MIke McGlone took over the space at the Halifax Farmers Market from Scott Seafoods, after working for them, about 13 years ago now, and continued the reputation for excellent, locally sourced, seafood. I came on as a partner in Mike’s Fish Shop about 2 1/2 years ago, and fully owned the business for the last 2 years. Moving into the new Seaport Farmers Market I’ve been busy developing our new full time space.
How did you get involved?
I met Mike about the same time he took over from Scott’s Seaffod, he came into The Libertine Bistro while I was working there as chef & tried to sell me some halibut off of the back of his truck! I didn’t buy that day, but started buying soon after. Over the years Mike & I had talked off and on about coming on as a partner in the business , but as I was already so busy working as a chef & starting a family I had no time. In December 3 years ago I found myself without a kitchen to work in & started helping out on Saturday’s at the market. By March I was a partner & by December I owned the business.
What has it been like for you to work there, instead of behind the scenes in a kitchen?
It has been great, although the learning curve has been quite steep. Working in a kitchen you have so few opportunities to deal with the public, and see the reaction to what you are doing. With the market I am able to talk with my customers every week, and really develop a personal relationship with them.
What is your relationship with food like?
Well judging by the size of me I have had a long time love affair with food! Spending 15 years as a cook/chef and now the last 3 years involved with a retail seafood business, you can say that I have dedicated a large portion of my life to food. It is something that I have a great passion for, and get very excited to share that passion with others, from telling them what I have found to be the best way to prepare halibut, to sourcing a more sustainably produced shrimp.
Do you think that because you worked as a chef that you’re more discerning than other people about fish?
No, I think that my experiences from working as a chef have helped me in being able to know what good products are by the way the look, feel, smell, sound & taste. But once most people are exposed to a great food they are not likely to soon forget it, and are able to compare it to other things out there. Like the first time you had an organically grown, local tomato, you were probably, as I was, completely blown away by the flavour & texture, and even now years later I am able to compare that to tomatoes I find in my local grocery store. Eating one tomato did not make me an expert, but it certainly gave me a basis for comparison.
How easy -or difficult – is it to source hook and line fish and other forms of sustainably sourced fish?
It would depend on the season & the product you are looking for. It has become easier, and will continue to get easier as more fishermen & plants become more aware that there is a local consumer who is willing to support these types of fisheries.
How realistic is it to be a business person and source ethically sourced fish?
The information surrounding “ethically” sourced fish is very confusing, as there is a lot of money involved, and therefore a lot of conflicting information. My primary goal is to source the very best seafood available to me, using quality & sustainability as my two most important factors in my decision making process. To sell seafood and use completely “ethical” products is, in my opinion, an impossible task as someone will invariably walk into my shop with a different code of ethics. If those issues are important to a specific customer, I can, and have, steered them into making better choices.
Now that the store is open, you’ve moved sites, how does it feel to be here?
It’s great. It always was nice to be here at the seaport market. I’ve always liked being here. There’s been a lot of anxiety as far as time lines and making sure that things are done. There still is a lot of work left here to do, but to actually be in the storefront, after two years of planning, it’s fantastic.
The Fish Shop is open Tuesday through Friday 10-6, Saturday 7-4 and Sunday 8-4.
You can follow them on Twitter at The Fish Shop