Keynote Address: How one man’s curiosity, passion and foresight influenced the food business: a case study in creative marketing
After attending Reed College, Jon Rowley was a commercial salmon fisherman in Alaska who took to spending the off seasons in Europe and coastal areas of the U.S. visiting fisheries, oyster beds, restaurant kitchens and markets while appreciating and learning about foods of different cultures and especially those techniques and methods by which the best quality food gets to the market.
With as mission to improve the quality of seafood in Seattle he started a small wholesale business championing hook and line caught fish, working with fishermen to employ some of the methods like bleeding he had observed in Europe. His mission was to improve the quality of fish in Seattle. The business was successful in introducing a higher level of quality that had not been seen in Seattle before. The restaurants and the dining public loved the fish but the business was undercapitalized and grew too fast. After six months, Rowley transitioned from a fish buyer and seller to a consultant who got good results for the restaurants and the fishermen without taking possession of the fish. He was invited to serve on the Advisory Panel of the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council where he advocated for rational quota management of the North Pacific halibut fishery.
With a knack for innovative marketing and an acute interest in the quality of and taste of food, he went on to build a fascinating 30 year consulting and marketing career . National restaurants like Shaw’s Crab House in Chicago, The Old Ebbitt Grill in Washington D.C. and Legal Seafood based in Boston sought his services
Promising his clients the “best salmon in the world” he brought the first fresh Copper River salmon to market when the harvest had previously gone into cans. He initiated the revival of the Olympia oyster which had been close to extinction with a magical restaurant event where the only things served were Olympia oysters on the half shell and Shaumburg sparkling wine.
Seeing what he had accomplished to improve the quality of seafood off the boats, in restaurants and in supermarkets, Julia Child called him the “Fish Missionary”. His interest in quality extended to fruits and vegetables. He served as the Site Coordinator of a large community garden in Seattle for three years, which he regarded as a flavor lab. Noticing that flavor often depends on organic matter in soil, he became a Master Composter. He learned he could measure the flavor potential of crops with a refractometer. The now legendary seasonal Peach-O-Rama promotion he organized for Metropolitan Markets in Seattle sets a 13 Brix minimum for fruit and standards for ripeness with growers. Peach-O-Rama is now in its 20th year. Peach lovers wait for it.
In 1987, Rowley was inducted into the prestigious James Beard Who’s Who of Food Professionals in America.
Inspired by a passage on eating oysters in Hemingway’s Moveable Feast and a platter of oysters he enjoyed at Le Dome in Paris, he developed a career-influencing curiosity and passion for them. For nearly 30 years he has done marketing and promotions for Taylor Shellfish Farms and has developed successful oyster programs and festivals for restaurants nationwide including the Old Ebbit Oyster Riot. He produced the annual Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition, a dating service for West Coast wines and oysters, for 20 years. He has been inducted into the Shaw’s Crab House Oyster Hall of Fame Rowley has made a notable contribution to the increasing momentum of what he calls the Great American Oyster Renaissance.
Jon has written for Gourmet, FOOD ARTS, Fine Cooking, Edible Seattle and others and has served as Contributing Editor to SAVEUR. His work has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and Seattle Times among others. He has received numerous awards and distinctions for his work and influence including a lifetime achievement award from the Copper River fleet.
Oyster Prices – what goes up must come down?
William “Corky” Perret, Retired Deputy Director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources
William “Corky” Perret is a career professional in fisheries and fisheries management for approximately fifty years, working in the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources. Forty-five years in a variety of leadership and management positions, including two terms of service to the State of Louisiana as Assistant Secretary for the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and approximately two years of service to the State of Mississippi as Deputy Director, the position from which he retired in June, 2009. Mr. Perret is active in the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference (ISSC), serving as a member of the shellfish restoration committee. GSI Board Member Corky Perret is International Expert in Marine Fisheries
Al Sunseri, Owner, P & J Oyster Company
Al Sunseri is owner and general manager of P & J Oyster Company, Inc. in New Orleans, Louisiana, a 139 year old family oyster business in New Orleans since 1985. Mr. Sunseri has advocated for coastal protection and restoration on behalf of his family’s oyster business, the coastal community, and the Louisiana oyster community since 1987.
He is a founding member of the Gulf Oyster Industry Council and was instrumental in establishing 501-C6, Non-Profit Association status and incorporation with the Louisiana Secretary of State. He has drafted and participated in the passage of Federal and State laws relating to oysters and coastal matters. He has testified in State and Federal Legislative and Administrative hearings and drafted Congressional testimony requesting disaster assistance on behalf of the Louisiana seafood community following Hurricane Katrina.
Mr. Sunseri serves on two Governor’s boards: The Advisory Commission on Coastal Protection, Restoration and Conservation and the Oyster Advisory Committee. He is also a past board member of the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference (ISSC).
Ocean Acidification – potential threat to Virginia’s shellfish industry and a proactive approach for shellfish hatcheries
Bill Mook, Owner, Mook Sea Farm
Bill owns Mook Sea Farm, founded in 1985 and located on the Damariscotta River in mid-coast Maine. Mook Sea Farms produces and sells oyster seed to other East Coast farms, and full-grown oysters sold as “Wiley Point” and “Pemaquid Point” oysters. Mook was a member of Maine’s Commission to Study Ocean Acidification, and is a member of the Northeast Coastal Acidification Network (NECAN) steering committee.
Advanced Recirculating Aquaculture Systems for Intensive Land-Based Fish Production
John Davidson, Senior Research Associate, Fresh Water Institute
John Davidson has worked at the Conservation Fund’s Freshwater Institute for 17 years in the Aquaculture Research Department. John has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology from Shepherd College and a Master of Science Degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Resources from
West Virginia University. During his tenure, he has focused on finfish production in recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS)and has authored more than 20 peer-review articles on topics such as: water quality in RAS, nitrate tolerance of rainbow trout and Atlantic salmon, fishmeal-free diets for
salmonids, aquaculture production noise, and depuration techniques to reduce off-flavor in RAS-produced Atlantic salmon.
Farming Options for Small-Scale Fish Production in Virginia
Brendan Delbos, Eastern Region Representative, Aquaneering Inc.
Brendan Delbos is the Eastern Region representative for Aquaneering Inc., a company specializing in the design and fabrication of housing systems for aquatic animals. Brendan has also spent four years on the board of the Virginia Aquaculture Association and is currently their vice president. Brendan received his Master’s Degree in Aquaculture and Fisheries from Louisiana State University and has over 15 years of practical experience in the field.