Matthew Henderson, who goes by the moniker Dead Fish Guy, has been supplying Michelin-starred restaurants like Alinea, Eleven Madison Park, Daniel, Jean Georges, Masa, and French Laundry with just-plucked-from-the-sea delicacies for a decade. He nabbed that gig by staking out chefs and then sneaking into kitchens armed with samples offloaded that morning from docks in Cape Cod.
His ballsiness paid off. Henderson’s ability to avoid time-sucking supply chains allowed him to deliver his haul within hours. Commercial enterprises often leave fresh fish on ice for days; he works exclusively with specialty fishermen and boutique harvesters. The pristine product combined with Henderson’s passion (see his energetic Instagram), and the fact that the catch was sourced using traditional hooks and line traps, made him somewhat of a pesca-celebrity in the fine dining community.
When the pandemic forced restaurant closures, Henderson needed to find another way to support the indie fishermen and women who rely on him to get their product into the world. Since chefs like Dave Pasternak and Jean-Georges Vongerichten had routinely put in personal orders with their restaurant purchases, he reasoned that regular folks with a penchant for top drawer food might treat themselves to, say Gulf of Maine Sea Scallops (the very ones served as sashimi at Manhattan’s 3 three-Michelin-star MASA) while stuck at home.
E-Fish was born on February 26. The concept: superior, sustainably caught fish straight from the dock to your door. No chemicals (grocery store seafood is often shot up with sodium tripolyphosphate to extend its shelf life). No mystery about where, when, and how the fish was harvested. Briny-bright Lovepoint oysters (Ben Hamilton and Cameron Barner’s farm in Harpswell, Maine, uses floating oyster bags that naturally tumble in the Casco Bay). Day Boat Sea Scallops plucked from Cape Cod Bay by septuagenarian scalloper Philip Michaud and a particularly juicy black sea bass trapped by Jamie Sullivan in Nantucket Sound arrive on food-safe gel packs with a card spotlighting the producer as well as a QR code specifying the harvest date and location. The connection forged between supplier and customer delivers a feel-good warmth a la interacting with the folks sourcing your food at a local green market. The site also features a small but mighty selection of flavorful accompaniments from Rare Tea Cellar, a Chicago-based purveyor of esoteric pantry items. To wit: Emperor’s Genmai, a Japanese roasted brown rice, Belazu Chermoula paste, Kanzuri paste, and Golden Kaluga Caviar which is known for its dramatic pop. In the coming weeks, E-fish will continue to build out its roster of recipes from chefs (the site now includes some from Boulud alum Travis Swickard, and Coppa’s Jamie Bissonnette) and develop interactive chef-led video content. As for the cost, it’s surprisingly reasonable, on par with what you might pay at Whole Foods for lesser quality seafood. Two pounds of Gulf of Maine Pollock and Mussels goes for $76.49, two pounds of Day Boat Fresh Sea Scallops is $82, and 50 Lovepoint oysters is $100.
Almost a year into this pandemic, it’s essential to find joy where you can. For many, that has meant kicking predictability and lackluster to-go meals to the curb and elevating at-home dining with standout ingredients. The recent evening that I spent slurping Lovepoint oysters from their craggy grey shells (no condiments necessary) took me to a happy place of flavor and coastal memories. Fresh fish can do that to a gal.