After weeks of fierce regional competitions among top Whole Foods Market® fishmongers across the country, 11 finalists competed in the first-ever national Fishmonger Face-Off at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen on June 16.
Following an impressive round of battles, the golden trident trophy was presented to Bob “The Fish Guy” Reany from Denver. Bob has been a fishmonger for almost 40 years. Currently a seafood team leader at the Highlands Ranch store near Denver, he’s been with Whole Foods Market for six years. His favorite fish is a striped bass, and he loves seafood paella. Bob has earned a reputation as “The Halibut Slayer” is lauded by his team for his knowledge, speed and skills! “Our face-off was an incredible opportunity to honor and celebrate our committed and skilled fishmongers.
We’re fortunate to have experts behind the seafood counter who guide our shoppers to the best choices for their tastes and budgets and for healthy oceans,” said David Pilat, Whole Foods Market’s global seafood coordinator. Food & Wine Editor-in-Chief Dana Cowin introduced Chef John Besh, acclaimed restaurateur and cookbook author, who emceed the competition at which fishmongers first participated in a challenge of cutting and filleting Marine Stewardship Council certified wild Alaska salmon.
The contestants had three minutes to complete the task and were judged on the highest yield and best craftsmanship.
Bob stole the show by properly finishing the job in just 90 seconds!
Chef Paul Qui, recent James Beard Award and Top Chef Texas winner, judged the competition along with David Pilat. They selected five finalists to advance to the final round, which tested the fishmongers' seafood prowess in a high-energy game of trivia where Bob again reigned supreme. “All of the fishmongers who competed in the Face-Off are true artisans and should be proud,” said Chef John Besh. “They showed themselves to be true masters of their craft, passionate about their knowledge of seafood.”
Dancing fishmonger Michael “Numba One Cutta’” Schmitz from Encinitas, California won over the crowd as Fan Favorite from the start of the event, hook, line and sinker. Michael grew up in Maryland, fishing, shucking oysters, and filleting fish. When he’s not cutting fish for Whole Foods Market, he’s playing the drums or hip-hop and B-boy dancing, which he started at eight-years-old. His favorite seafood dish is fresh Alaskan halibut, seasoned, baked and served with hollandaise sauce, asparagus and rice.
This past April, we made huge waves by becoming the first national retailer to no longer carry red-rated wild-caught seafood.
Shoppers can now easily purchase responsibly-caught wild-caught seafood from fisheries certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or rated green or yellow by the Blue Ocean Institute or Monterey Bay Aquarium with ease and confidence.
Learn more about how to make the best seafood choices in our stores.