If you asked Andrew Ogden of Bradley Beach five years ago where he would be today you can guarantee his answer would not include representing the entire Northeast as a fish monger in the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen, or even seafood for that matter.
Ogden admitted to Patch that he didn’t eat fish prior to working at the Middletown Whole Foods Market. However, through working up the ranks of the store Ogden found his home in the seafood department as a fish monger and quickly learned valuable skills that will bring him to Aspen to compete for the title of “Finest Fish Monger”.
“I became very interested in seafood while working at Whole Foods because I was very good friends with the seafood coordinator at the time. The more he explained to me, the more interested in the department I became and I kind of fell in love with it,” explained Ogden. “I never actually ate fish until I started working with seafood and now I eat it at least twice a week.”
For the last four years, Ogden has been working in the seafood department cutting filets and educating customers about preparing fish and the quality of Whole Foods’ seafood.
“Whole Foods has some of the highest industry leading standards for their seafood and we get fish deliveries six days a week,” said Ogden.
Constantly getting in new seafood is one of the ways Ogden was able to prepare for the qualifying competition to represent the Northeast at the Food and Wine Classic.
“I prepare fish all day long. I can filet anything we have in the department and I knew what we were going to be doing for the competition so every week before the competition I would just sell what we have, and practice cutting with different techniques, speeds, and knives.”
After beating out over 20 competitors from New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Long Island in the Northeast Regional Competition, Ogden found out that his fish monger skills would bring him to Aspen to represent the entire Northeast in the Food and Wine Classic. There, he will go up against 10 other competitors from across the nation in a battle of brains and skills.
Ogden explained that the regional competition consisted of three parts; cooking, selling numbers, and cutting. But in Aspen, the competition will be based on seafood knowledge and cutting yields. According to Ogden, the judges will first weigh the fish as a whole, and then they will weigh the fish after it has been filleted and compare it to the frame of the fish and whatever is cut off. The goal is to have as much fish left in the filet as possible (the highest yield) in the specified amount of time.
“There are 11 of us competing in Aspen. The mongers with the six lowest yields will be disqualified right then and there. The next round is trivia where we will be judged on our seafood knowledge, our reaction to customer questions, and our standard knowledge of seafood.”
The competition will take place this Saturday, June 16. At stake is the title of “Finest Fish Monger” and the coveted Trident trophy which will be displayed in the winning contestant’s store.
“Andrew's face is very visible in the fish department due to the many posters and chalkboards with his face on them,” said Brooke Herman, Marketing Team Leader at the Middletown Whole Foods Market. “He went up against 20 plus other stores and won so we are all very proud that he is coming from our store and we are all rooting for him. We would love to be able to display the trophy in our store.”
With his co-workers behind him, Ogden will leave his Middletown store on Thursday for the big competition. Results for the competition will be known as soon as the competition is over on Saturday.