Sea urchin (uni) is a funky delicacy that’s now prized by chefs all over the world. And Catalina Offshore and its owner, Dave Rudie, helped to put uni on the map. Back in the 1970s, the teenaged Rudie began harvesting seaweed and sea urchins from a rusty boat off Catalina Island, processing them in his family’s garage and selling them from his truck.
What started as a hobby developed into a business, with Rudie launching Catalina Offshore in 1985. Uni is still a huge part of what makes the company so renowned (in 2012 it was featured on Andrew Zimmern’s show Bizarre Foods America). But Catalina Offshore, which makes sustainable fishing a priority, also sells a huge variety of sushi- and sashimi-grade fish, such as eel (unagi) and ahi, along with snapper, grouper, and a whole lot more-most caught in southern California and Baja California waters-wholesale, at its own retail fish market, and online.
Fishmonger Tommy Gomes, who comes from a long line of fishermen, is the expert at the Catalina Offshore market. He kick-started the Educational Seafood Nutrition Center, where guest chefs give seafood-cooking demos and lessons, followed by a dinner at the market. And Gomes works with chefs directly to supply their restaurants with the best fish Catalina can offer.