As the owner of a successful restaurant in Destin I’d like to share some insights into how we make our purchasing decisions.
I have always considered Fudpucker’s to be a seafood restaurant despite the fact that we sell a lot of burgers. Seafood has been in my blood since I caught my first fish – an 18-pound King Mackerel at the age of four while fishing with my dad on his commercial lobster and stone crab boat in the Florida Keys. Needless to say, I was hooked! Growing up on Lower Matacumbe Key in the late 50’s and early 60’s was amazing. For those of you who have visited this part of Florida recently I can tell you with all truthfulness that it isn’t anything like it used to be. Back in the day there were very few people living in the Keys and as a result the fishing was incredible. Dinner at our house almost always revolved around seafood – stone crab, lobster and fish of all sorts. My absolute favorite meal was when my mom and dad would fry Hog Snapper or Lobster. Oh my!
My love for all thing’s seafood manifested itself from day one when I opened Fudpucker’s as a snack bar at a local nightclub some 37 years ago. My friend Chip Hendryx introduced me to Capt. Dale Beebe who was unloading a catch of Amberjack at the Marler Docks. I remember negotiating a price with Dale and I guess he thought I was going to by his entire catch. When I told him I only wanted 100 pounds he laughed. When I asked him to deliver the fish because I couldn’t fit it in my Honda Accord he laughed even harder. A couple of hours later he pulled up to the back door and dropped off a tub filled with ice and freshly caught Amberjack. As the years went on, I purchased a lot of fish from the charter boats in Destin and eventually decided that Triggerfish was my favorite and something my customers really looked forward to. Unfortunately, over-fishing pushed the State to enact very restrictive rules on catching Triggerfish and it has become very difficult to get at a fair price.
Price is the first consideration I look at when making a purchasing decision. The reason is that if I can’t buy a QUALITY product at a fair price, I will not be able to sell it to my customers at a cost they consider fair.
It goes without saying that the word QUALITY is always capitalized at Fudpuckers – if we aren’t proud of a product or an ingredient it will never make it to our menu.
So, what goes into my definition of QUALITY? Simply stated, it is taste, texture and how a product smells when cooked. With seafood all are important, but often smell drives the decision when everything else is equal. The reason is that typically smell is the first sense that impacts a customer when they come to the restaurant – sometimes even before they walk in the door. Here’s a true story… back in the snack bar days I used to turn off the hood system and grill onions to drive customers to come and eat. It used to drive my good friend and bartender extraordinaire Eddie Joe McGarvey crazy, but it illustrates the point – a great smelling food often drives the urge to eat.
Taste is of course critical as well – if a product doesn’t taste great why would you want to eat it. Texture is also critical especially with seafood – fish in particular. Most customers prefer white flaky fish and for that reason we typically offer Mahi Mahi on our menu. It is hard to beat a Chargrilled Fishpucker made with Mahi Mahi. I look at 20 or more samples of Mahi every Spring before making a decision on which company I will purchase from. You can rest assured that it will have great taste and texture and that the aroma will make your mouth water.
Another consideration is where does the product come from. This often correlates with how it is processed. I can tell you without question that seafood products processed in the United States are much more likely to pass my test than those caught overseas. This said, with the trend toward locally sourced foods we do our best to offer seafood that is caught along the Gulf Coast. We have been very successful in doing this with the fish we use for our Fresh Fish Specials. We also use local crab meat in our famous Crab Balls and Crab Cakes. And, when possible, we get our shrimp from the Gulf Coast and sometimes even the local Bays. When local or regional shrimp is not available, we use high QUALITY products sourced from trusted suppliers.
I am convinced that you will be very happy with any seafood dish you choose from our menu of Oral Delights. My favorite shrimp dish is the Stuffed Shrimp Parmesan – large shrimp stuffed with locally sourced crab meat and topped with my signature White Parmesan Cheese Sauce then broiled to perfection. My favorite fish dish is one of our new chalkboard specials – Blackened Mahi with Alligator Sausage. We serve this over Roasted Potatoes that are to die for and Fresh Seasonal Veggies sautéed in butter.
I hope you will agree that Fudpucker’s is the best seafood restaurant in Destin.