Fly Fishing

Jean Georges Vongrichten wants ‘ahi, he calls Honolulu’s Wayne Samiere. Arguably
the hottest chef in New York City, Vongrichten uses 500 pounds of primo Hawaiian
‘ahi per month. The bright red seafood delicacy is regularly served at several
of Vongrichten’s six top-rated Manhattan establishments. “Wayne’s tuna is four
to five days fresher than what I can get elsewhere in New York,” says Chris Beischer,
chef at Vongrichten’s V Steakhouse in the new Time Warner Building-the hottest
restaurant zone in the Big Apple.

Beischer is hardly alone, however.
Dozens of top-notch Mainland chefs also rely on Samiere, the fishmonger to the
star chefs. Samiere promises and delivers piscine perfection shipped fresh from
the Islands to anywhere on the Mainland in a single day. He’s taken on and licked
local fish suppliers coast to coast. “Our fish arrives in better condition than
the guy who supplies it across town,” he says.

Fish Co. owner Wayne Samiere ships 100,000 pounds of fish per month to Mainland
restaurants and hotels. Photo: Karin Kovalsky

hardly an idle boast. Samiere’s Honolulu Fish Co. ships 100,000 pounds of fish
per month via Federal Express, the vast majority to restaurants and hotels. That
makes Samiere FedEx’s biggest individual business customer on O’ahu. By targeting
a lucrative niche, in less than a decade Samiere has grown his company from a
guy with a computer, a desk and a phone into a 31-employee business reeling in
northwards of $10 million in annual gross revenues.

The son of a San Francisco
transit worker, Samiere watched throughout his childhood years as his father tried
and failed to start several businesses. “He always wanted to have his own company,”
says Samiere.

The ordeal implanted a deep desire to be an entrepreneur
in Samiere’s heart. His other deep desire was to go fishing. As a child, Samiere
fished the condemned piers off San Francisco Bay. He later graduated from San
Francisco State University with a degree in marine biology and spent the next
few as a marine biologist in the chilly Pacific Northwest. A visit to his brother
in Hawai’i in 1987 gave him a taste of Hawaiian warmth and great local fish. He
relocated for good in 1991.

By then marine biology had also lost its allure.
Samiere shifted to the commercial side of the fish business. He eventually became
the general manager for Pacific Ocean Producers, the largest supplier of commercial
fishing gear in the Islands. Hankering for his own firm, Samiere launched the
Honolulu Fish Co. in 1994, targeting only Mainland customers, since he reasoned
the local market was saturated.

Part mad scientist and part fishmonger,
Samiere developed secret washing and packing techniques that he claims can keep
his fish fresh for days even if they are stuck on a hot tarmac. He also built
his company’s own Web site and recently launched a retail offering that allows
individuals on the Mainland to order fish online. The new business is getting
national attention, including a write-up in The New York Times.

Says Samiere,
“It’s not a matter of competing with another source. There’s no other fish like
we have in Hawai’i, not in the rest of the United States.”