Friday, October 28, 2011
New chef Randy Morgan is good fit for Fish City Grill
When it comes to seafood, he is both passionate and well-versed.
Brightly festooned with lively colors and nautical-themed decor, the interior of Fish City Grill on Henderson Avenue presents a welcoming, almost festive environment in which customers may dine. The decor is not, however, very seasonal – there are few indications of any upcoming holidays or special dates on the calendar. Even if there were, then those decorations would at this point be geared towards Halloween or even Thanksgiving.
But none of that matters much to Randy Morgan. He doesn’t need the holiday decorations or adornments to know what time of year it is. To him, every day is December 25.
“Sometimes, when I get this incredible fish delivered to the restaurant and I’m examining it when it’s still in the box, it gives me goosebumps. I’ve used this expression before, but there’s no other way to explain it: It’s like I’m a kid at Christmastime, and all these presents are there under the tree – that’s kind of the feeling I get when I see those fish,” says the new executive chef of Fish City Grill. “It’s kind of ingrained in me.”
It’s a feeling Morgan’s been accustomed to for more than a decade since he began working as a sous chef at the Oceanaire Seafood Room in Seattle. For the man who would eventually become the creative mind behind Fish City Grill’s 23 (and counting) locations, it was a perfect introduction to the world of seafood-based restaurants; the executive chef at the time, Kevin Davis, soon became a mentor of Morgan’s, showing him not only the ins and outs of fish, but the passion it requires to be a truly successful chef.
“Oceanaire had recruited Kevin to be the executive chef at their Seattle location, and then he asked me to come be his sous chef. So I went over to Oceanaire with him and I was a fish butcher – they had a fish butchering room there, basically an inside cooler and you butcher all the fish inside of it. It’s a full time job cause there’s just so much fish on the menu, so it’s literally a butchering job all day long,” says Morgan, who went on from his sous chef role at Oceanaire to work as chef at Dallas Fish Market and executive sous chef at Hibiscus. “They were bringing in stuff that I had never seen before as a cook or as a sous chef, and Kevin was all about quality, so nothing that came through the door was anything less than super-quality, premium fish. It was cool to have him there to show me ‘Hey, this fish is great quality because of this and this.’ He taught me the high standards to have with fish and what not to accept when fish comes through the door. He kind of taught me not to be afraid to send stuff back and to adopt a ‘we want what’s best for our guests’ attitude.”
And that’s exactly what they were looking for at Fish City Grill.
Morgan’s passion and familiarity with seafood becomes a strong asset for Fish City Grill (and its predecessor Half Shells in Snider Plaza) that owner Bill Bayne hopes will spread to the rest of the chain’s restaurants from Colorado to Florida. But it’s not just Morgan’s professional ability and history with the particular cuisine at Fish City Grill that makes him perfect for the job. His personality couldn’t be a better fit for a restaurant that tries to promote its ‘neighborhood’ feel.
“I think it’s really great, I love meeting the people that come in. I’ll just sit down with people and talk with them for awhile – in fact, that’s how we got our Dr. Ron’s Seafood Gumbo on the board,” he says, referring to the blackboard menu that lets him flex some of his creative muscles outside of the static printed menu. “There was a man who was coming to this location in particular since we opened, and he’s a doctor down the street. I was just randomly sitting at the bar doing computer work one day and he was sitting next to me, and he seemed a little grumpy. I asked him how his sandwich was, and he looks at me, sees me in my chef coat and says, (chuckle) he starts saying, ‘So you’re the chef here, huh? Well, let me tell you something.’ And he starts telling me in great detail why we should have seafood gumbo on our menu. He talks about how he can go to any of our competitors and get a seafood gumbo and he loves it, but he loves this restaurant better and he’s just really bitter that we don’t have a seafood gumbo.
“So tell him, ‘That’s an easy fix. I’ll go back there and make you one right now.’ He tells me that he doesn’t have time, but he says he’ll be back the next day. So I told him, ‘I’ll have seafood gumbo for you when you walk in on Wednesday.’ Sure enough, he came in the next day for lunch and I had some prepared for him and brought out to him. From then on, he had this big smile on his face. He loved it. And now he comes back something like three times a week. So we started putting it on the board, just to pay homage to him. And you know, it’s been a really big seller here. But those little personal touches with customers, that just kind of makes my day when that happens.”
It’s a personal attitude at a corporate chain, and Morgan embodies just about everything his restaurant is striving to be, professional, creative, and personal. There’s little question that Morgan has the kitchen skills to turn out fantastic food at Fish City Grill, but there’s a fairly unique aspect he brings to the job that, perhaps more importantly than any other trait, that he imparts to his new digs: fun.
Then again, how can he not be fun? After all, he’s living Christmas every day.
Pegasus News Content partner - Entree Dallas
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