Bonita Bay Club’s Richard Brumm combines his love of spearfishing with his dedication to exceeding expectations.
When time allows, Richard Brumm, CEC, CCA, Director of Culinary Operations at Bonita Bay Club (BBC) in Bonita Springs, Fla., will dive into the waters off the Gulf of Mexico with a commercial spearfishing company, to catch fresh fish for his members.
“We question our operations constantly and always push ourselves forward,” says Brumm. “All fresh pasta is made in-house. Steaks are dry-aged on site. We do house-made pepperoni and other charcuterie. The list goes on.”
Of all of these initiatives, BBC’s Fresh Catch Program is by far the most well-received.
“We’re looking at what sets us apart,” says Brumm. “What can we do to engage our members and bring value to their experience?”
BBC’s Fresh Catch Program provides members with fresh fish they would not readily access elsewhere. It also serves as an educational platform for Brumm, to expose his culinary team to the catch-and-cook process.
“By fabricating whole fish, we are teaching skills and fostering respect for the source,” he says.
Southwest Florida offers the perfect canvas for this type of initiative. The Gulf of Mexico provides an abundance of species, both well-known and lesser-known.
“Depending on what is being targeted, dives range from as shallow as 40 to 50 feet up to depths of 135 feet or more,” Brumm says. “Trips can be targeting specific species—black, gag or red grouper, hognose snapper, Greater Amberjack or even Lionfish—but always include other species that fill the gaps and can be interesting, like Mutton Snapper, African Pompano or even flounder. Seasons and seasonality also come into play as to what is open for commercial fishing.”
Three distinct stakeholders are included in each transaction: the commercial fishing license holder that Brumm dives with, the wholesale fish company, and BBC.
“The fish caught by the commercial fishing license holder is sold to BBC directly through the wholesale fish company,” Brumm explains. “Fortunately, both of the local operations I use operate as both commercial fishermen and wholesalers, so the transaction isn’t as complicated.”
This is an important part of the program’s success, because health codes dictate that restaurant operators must purchase from licensed operations.
“I was fortunate enough to be introduced to, and become friends with, the captain of a commercial spearfishing operation and wholesale seafood house,” says Brumm. “Fortunately for me, commercial spearfishing requires divers.”
When possible, BBC prefers to purchase whole fish from traceable sources, regardless of who the diver is. But if the diver is Brumm, BBC tends to get a better deal.
“It’s a win-win-win,” Brumm says. “The sale price for Fresh Catch is completely based on the purchase price and yield of the specific species of fish. Costs generally balance out, as there is more labor involved with bringing in whole fish.
“The real benefit is the freshness and quality of product we are able to give to our membership,” he adds. “Most fish that comes in a restaurant’s door is five to seven days old. We are able to get a product that is usually less than 24 hours out of the water.”
When BBC isn’t purchasing fish that Brumm personally caught, it relies on products sourced from fishmongers, both local and international.
“I rely on fishmongers who ship items overnight and allow us to augment our menus with other species that may be seasonal, or lesser-known,” says Brumm. “The quality is there, and it allows us to create menu diversity and interest.”