Ever wonder how fresh the seafood that you are eating is? You can walk into any run of the mill seafood restaurant and have the generic lobster tank in the restaurant’s foyer greet you. Although you see those lobsters alive, how fresh can “the classic New England Lobster” they are offering be when you are 100 miles inland. I can assure from my own experiences the past two summers that when you enjoy a nice steamed lobster at either the Woodman’s of Essex restaurant or at one of their catered clambakes, you are enjoying the freshest possible lobsters from Maine and locally out of Manchester By the Sea, Massachusetts.
As one of the many jobs I take on as a Woodman’s employee, one is helping co-owner Douglas K. Woodman with the daily lobster inventory. Doug has myself and two other young guys bright and early at Woodman’s every day for the daily shipment of lobster. We arrive early and complete our other allotted tasks and wait for the shipments to arrive. Around 8 in the morning, Maine lobster pulls into the Woodman’s alley way bearing freshly caught lobsters. Myself and the other guys quickly begin counting them out and placing them into our own respective holding tanks. As a restaurant that serves thousands of people on its busiest days, and one that expects nothing less than exceptional service, running out of one of the main ticket items would be quite the blemish. The inventorial process is crucial, thusly; to make sure we have the allotted amount of lobster for the day’s clambakes as well as the restaurant. “Dougie” has quite the innate ability of knowing how many lobsters the restaurant will need for that day using last year’s numbers, weather, and whatever other methods he so quietly keeps to himself. It is our job to get him, then, to ensure we are receiving what we need.
After we have finally counted the daily shipment in, the fun part begins of weighing them all and marking them out. We take the lobsters designated for bakes and correctly place them within totes at the right time the clambakers are leaving. The whole process is very important and quite a bit of steps that we complete before the restaurant opens at 11 and all the clambakes head out.
It has been very enjoyable to serve as a part of the Woodman’s backstage crew before the show opens at 11. Most of the time I am wrapping up my early morning duties when everyone really starts to roll in, read to prepare everything Woodman’s of Essex prepares. Kitchen staff begins first with mixing up fresh new lobster salad for Woodman’s great lobster rolls. The fry cooks come in too to get everything heated up and ready for the abundance of fried clams, fish, scallops, and all the other great golden brown treats. For myself, I usually head up to the top deck, prepare the raw bar and stock up the great bar selection. That, or I head out front and hang out with my buddies the lobsters that I, only hours previously, greeted upon their arrival to Woodman’s of Essex. Unfortunately for our short-lived friendships, I carry the responsibility of steaming them up perfectly for every sort of customers; there are the locals that know exactly what they want and exactly what they’re doing, and there are also tourists that truly have a great time with the experience of the whole process of the lobster. One of the subtle joys in my summer job is walking through excited customers who has never eaten a lobster before. Especially kids, they love holding the live lobsters and taking photos with them. I have also been known to pose for a picture with a lobster here and there for the lucky customer! Now that you may know where I am or what I might be doing come on by and let me know what you want to hear about in the blogs. Stay warm and best wishes. -Jack