By C. Patterson
While prepping for their wine dinner, two members of the master class of Metroplex restaurateurs sat with me in their brightly lit home away from home to discuss their success, their journey, and how a business model that had them going deeper into the ocean ultimately landed them on top.
What prompted the entry into the restaurant business and seafood in particular?
Mark: The restaurant business is something I had a life long dream to have and seafood because of Rick. Rick is our 25-year veteran of the seafood business.
Rick: There are not a lot of people serving fresh seafood in Dallas on the restaurant side of it or on the retail side of it. Many years ago the opportunity came about, it’s kind of a niche that we found. Eating seafood is obviously very good for you, but a lot of people don’t know how to cook it so we offer all of those tips. We bring in fresh seafood from all over the United States and all over the world to accommodate the needs of everyone that has moved into town from everywhere else. So, it’s fun and nobody’s doing it.
A lot of people shy away from the fresh seafood business because of the connections it takes to get the best seafood. What went into your career or your life that made those connections accessible to you?
Rick: It’s all about those relationships and working with people to develop those relationships, which I have done over the past 20-plus years. It also takes trusting people. We have sources on the east coast, west coast, gulf coast, and all over the country and we fly everything in whole and filet it here. The secret is flying it in and getting fresh product – when you’re out, you’re out.
Mark: And knowing how to handle it. That’s what most people don’t understand. If you go to a place to buy fish the day it comes in it’s a pretty reasonable bet that you’ll get a decent piece of fish. If it’s the next day they may have not stored it correctly or not have kept it at the right temperature and there’s no telling what you’re going to get that second day.
Outside of the restaurant do you guys consider yourselves foodies?
Mark: Food is part of the deal, you know. Do I study food? No. Do I enjoy food? Absolutely.
Rick: Same thing. I enjoy it, however, I wouldn’t call myself a true foodie. I am more of a seafood…I don’t want to say snob [Mark burst out laughing]. I am more of a seafood person.
What makes people love Sea Breeze so much?
Mark: Freshness, variety, the friendly easy-going atmosphere and getting a high-class piece of fish for a moderate price and the location.
Rick: With the quality of product we could be anywhere in Dallas with white table cloths on the tables, but that’s not who we are. But the quality of product can command that type of price range. Because of the way we buy it, store it, and handle it we have the freshest fish in town.
What was the first rule of owning a restaurant that you guys learned?
Rick: You’ve got to be here. You’ve got to be here, work it, and develop it.
Mark: As an independent restaurant it takes on the personality of the owners.
Tell me what you’re most looking forward to for the wine dinner
Rick: Just to bring in some different kinds of wines. Wine and food are kind of like peanut butter and jelly – one makes better than the other and when you pair great wine with great food it’s a fabulous experience. So on October 2 that’s what we are looking forward to doing.
Mark: We have always offered a nice by the glass wine list so this is the introduction to a little nicer quality by the bottle product.