Seafood summit hears tips from local brew pioneer

By on February 27, 2013

Uli Bennewitcz was keynote speaker. (Russ Lay)

Uli Bennewitcz was keynote speaker. (Russ Lay)

The 2013 Outer Banks Catch Seafood Summit Feb. 21 and 22 was a rousing success with all activities sold out.

The two-day event kicked off Thursday with dinner at the Lone Cedar Café and keynote speaker Uli Bennewitz of the Weeping Radish Farm Brewery and the Farmer to Fork Butchery Market.

The dinner fare was locally sourced seafood donated by local suppliers and prepared by the Lone Cedar’s chef.

On Friday morning participants were treated to a tour of the Wanchese Village fish houses.

Friday afternoon the summit moved to the new Coastal Studies Institute, where four seminars were provided.

The seminar topics included “A Value-Added Business Analysis for North Carolina’s Fishing Industry,” “North Carolina’s Growing Local Foods Demand and Sea to Table Markets,” “Provider Pals,” and “Chef-Watermen Business Innovations.”

Speakers hailed from East Carolina University, NC Farm Bureau Federation, Environmental Farming Systems, Locals Seafood, local chefs, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and local commercial fishing expert Dewey Hemilright.

Some attendees may have been surprised that Uli Bennewitz was the keynote speaker on opening night. After all, he is best known for the old Weeping Radish Restaurant in Manteo and the local brewery of the same name.

A few minutes into his remarks, Bennewitz was able to draw ample comparisons between his efforts to launch the first microbrewery in North Carolina, where no laws governing such activity existed and the emerging “sea-to-table” movement that is the primary focus of Outer Banks Catch.

In addition, Bennewitcz’s new operation in Currituck County, which features a butchery and also sells produce grown onsite, has also provided insights directly related to the nascent local seafood movement.

The dinner Friday night drew a full house. (Russ Lay)

The dinner Thursday night drew a full house. (Russ Lay)

In both of Bennewitcz’s early endeavors, he explained how he had to overcome regulatory burdens to launch his brewery and butchery operations under a state and federal structure geared toward large, mass-production facilities.

Bennewitcz noted how only two or three federal agencies oversee the construction of a nuclear power plant, while his butchery/brewing/produce operation is overseen by 14 government agencies.

With a great sense of humor, Bennewitcz described how his small butchery is required to pay for and outfit a single U.S.D.A. inspector with detailed instructions on the size of the inspector’s on-site office, down to requirements for a filing cabinet and even a coat rack.

He also explained the frustration with the detailed incident reports he was required to file.

For example, under federal regulations, an airborne fly in the butchery is not a violation. But if it lands inside the cutting room, a federal violation occurs and a report must be filed.

He explained how his Bavarian-trained butcher, using sparse English filed his report: Violation: Fly landed. Corrective action taken: Fly dead.

Attendees, many of whom are directly involved in catching, storing and distributing seafood under similar regulatory burdens could be seen nodding in agreement.

Bennewitcz also touched on how the seafood industry could take a cue from farmers markets in marketing their products.

He noted that farmers markets can be successful, but to attract quality sellers, the markets required significant foot traffic so there were enough buyers to justify the expense of setting up shop.

Bennewitcz also touched on integrity of the product.

He recalled a local market in his native Bavaria that sold apples. The market, perhaps at the expense of a high sales volume, only sold apples from the local farms.

When they ran out of apples, the market closed rather than import apples from other parts of Bavaria.

He urged local seafood sellers to follow the same example and refrain from importing seafood from other states if their mission was to promote local seafood as a value-added proposition.

Moving with seasonal availability of your product, whether it is produce or fish, will strengthen the brand and establish credibility that translates into premium prices.

Bennewitcz also encouraged purveyors of local seafood to think out of the box to add value to their offerings and strengthen the reputation and quality of the local brand.

He explained how his business had taken two staples — local sweet potatoes and liver from the butcher shop and created a pate from both.

The dish was entered in a national competition in San Francisco and bested entries from some of the most famous restaurants and chefs in the country.

He continued to talk about the value-added side of the business, an important variable when one is competing with mass-producers with tremendous economies-of-scale.

Citing McDonald’s as an example, Bennewitcz refrained from knocking it business model, which he said was an amazing distribution plan.

“People will buy cheap food now so they can spend more money on things like iPads. But in the long run, that inexpensive food would ruin your health,” Bennewitcz said.

“You can pay less now, but you will pay more later.”

America, Bennewitzc observed, had the most efficient food distribution system in the world. But, with all of the chemicals and preservatives added to our food, it was also among the most “polluted” distribution chains in the world.

Proving a roadmap of sorts, Bennewitcz told the local seafood industry to persevere in spite of initial regulatory roadblocks that are sure to arise and focus instead on taking advantage of our nation’s distribution system to deliver a fresh, healthy product under the Outer Banks Catch banner.

 

 

 



NOTICE OF PUBLIC MEETING TO REVIEW PLANS FOR AN OUTER BANKS EVENT CENTER
County Dare, North Carolina
Dare County Tourism Board

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the Visitors Bureau will hold a public meeting to review the plans for an Outer Banks Event Center. The meeting will take place on Monday, June 6, 2022 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. at the Keeper’s Galley building at Haven on the Banks, 115 Dove Street, Nags Head North Carolina 27959.

Still in the conceptual phase, the Event Center is intended to provide suitable and flexible space for year-round events, concerts, sports, meetings, smaller tradeshows, galas and any number of other uses. Learn more about the benefits for visitors and residents and how the Event Center is planned to complement the new Soundside boardwalk that is being designed.

Staff will be on hand to answer any questions. For additional information, please visit our Event Center FAQ page.


 



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