Driving through the scenic state of Utah, watching the trees blur by, traveling home to Los Angeles, shortly after World War II had ended, George Doizaki was on the road, when he caught a glimpse of a jumping carp in a nearby lake. For some odd reason Doizaki’s mind wandered and thoughts about fish continued to break the surface. It was at that time that Doizaki decided that somehow, some way, fish would be part of his future. After sharing his ideas with his close friends, George joined forces with Masuro Okamoto and founded the American Fish and Seafood Company in 1947.
Servicing the globe for more than a half-century, the company has come a long way from its humble beginnings- shortly after the war ended, the American Fish Co. was born and began operating their first processing facility and began delivering fresh fish out of the back of a flatbed truck.The early days were tough. Most households had not yet learned to understand or appreciate the value of preparing fresh seafood for regular meals. But, the team was persistent and ensured hesitant customers that they were fully committed to customer service and care and would work hard to meet all customers’ seafood needs; a commitment they are true to “to this day.”
Slowly, their customer base began to grow. The early customers, who had taken a chance on Doizaki and his start up company, stayed aboard while new customers (possibly having heard the good word from Doizaki’s loyal customers), joined as well.
Three years after their launch, longtime friend Harry Fujino, joined the American Fish team. That same year, 1950, the company hit a major milestone. They secured their first major retailer, Vons Grocery Company and would soon see their products lining the shelves of supermarkets.
The 1950s were busy times. Their service base expanded- adding restaurants, hotels, additional supermarkets and retailers, hospitals, caterers, airlines, and cruise lines. They were now servicing clients on the East and West coasts.
In 1981, in order to accommodate the immense growth experienced in the past decades, the company split into two separate divisions: the Los Angeles Fish Company (the Sushi supply arm of the company) was run by George’s nephew Hisato Doizaki while George headed up American Fish. Upon the death of George in 1982, Ernie, George’s son took over as President and begun to fully utilize the skills he had acquired working side by side with his father. In addition to the extensive business and seafood knowledge Ernie had gained, he had also come to respect his father’s vision for the future.
Since its conception in 1947, American Fish has strived to maintain the company’s motto: “Distribute only the freshest, finest quality seafood.” That is, to process, distribute and sell the finest quality fresh and frozen seafood and other related products to seafood lovers all over the world.
Today, the American Fish and Seafood Co. ships half a million pounds of fresh fish andhalf a million pounds of frozen fish weekly. They service some of the top “by the sea” clients such as the Carnival Group, Norwegian Cruise, Royal Caribbean and Crystal Cruises. They also have clients at some of Orange County’s favorite shops, restaurants and hotels including: Blue Coral (Newport and La Jolla,) the Ritz Restaurant, Villa Nova (Newport,) Bristol Farms (all locations,) Mc Cormick and Schmick’s, French 75 (all,) Savannah (multiple locations), Dukes, Mastro’s Ocean Club, Hilton Hotels, and the Patina group. With headquarters and a dedicated foodservice staff of over 100 in Los Angeles, American Fish is a prime foodservice distributor for San Diego, Orange, Ventura and Los Angeles counties.
How does a company that began with a handful of hopeful customers now maintain and serve a group of long-time, loyal clients throughout the states?
Chip Mezin of the American Fish Co. told Great Taste that it goes back to founder George Doizaki and the service standards he set. His ultimate goals were to provide consistent and reliable customer service and build a trusting relationship between buyer and purveyor. “In any successful business people can and do make a difference,” Mezin said. “We value all our customers and suppliers, they are each a part of us… we never lose sight of our people, they are an extension of our goals… to offer the finest freshest fish possible.”
American Fish was primarily a retail distributor, until about 15 years ago when they became more interested in the fine dining scene. Owner Ernie Doizaki put together a team of professionals including talented chefs from the Los Angeles and Orange County areas. “A top chef is the perfect complement to fine fish…we pride ourselves on our participation in the culinary arts and enjoy working with some of the finest chefs in the world,” Mezin stated.
American Fish’s 10 million dollar inventory allows them to cater to all kinds of customers: white-tablecloth establishments, upscale restaurants, and high-quality restaurant groups and chains. They carry a wide variety of fresh fin fish species, both farmed and wild caught, every major brand of frozen seafood and a specialty line of fresh seafood like shrimp, crabs and lobster, all of which are imported. For fine dining customers and others searching for the hard-to-find, more expensive sellers like Rouget Barbet, Live Spot prawns, Mediterranean Blue Fin and Louvar, just call American Fish.
To further serve their customers, American Fish offers custom cutting and portion control, following each customer’s detailed specifications and promises to deliver with excellent service at competitive prices. To make purchasing less stressful, American Fish recently added an internet division, allowing customers to browse and to pick and choose what products they would like to purchase. Professional chefs at American Fish also create recipes in their test kitchen intended to complement the seafood purchased and give less experienced customers a peek into the versatility of seafood.
In 2002, after the passing of George Cohan, Ernie, then President and CEO, decided to become the Chairman of the Board and asked James Lanter to be the new CEO/President of the company. The business administration graduate of USC has been a dedicated employee since 1983 and is one more reason American Fish continues to be the top foodservice business.
How does American Fish guarantee its clients receive the freshness products possible?
Their team of skilled buyers situated around the globe, in places like South American, Mexico, Vietnam, and Thailand – are all in pursuit of new and exciting items. “These men have one simple goal,” Mezin said, “to source and sell the highest quality of fish obtainable. They pride themselves on relationships that keep fishermen fishing for us.” American Fish also pays their supply chain faster than others in the industry, assuring they get the first and best catch (referred to as top of the load).
To guarantee safety, they also participate in a voluntary program that measures the mercury levels in fin fish. This allows them to confidently serve clients under this program and assure them they are purchasing fish with levels of Mercury below what the FDA has deemed safe. Most seafood company’s off-site testing takes over a week to get the results so by the time the results come in, the fish has been sold. With the on-site Safe Harbor program, mercury tests take approximately 45 seconds to yield results. This gives companies the choice. For a little more cost per pound, restaurateurs and retailers can guarantee and state the claim that 100% of their products are mercury-level-safe and have been successfully tested by American Fish, knowing they are backed by the Safe Harbor program. The National Marine Fisheries Service, a part of the U.S. Department of Commerce (USDC), also helps in the administration of the seafood inspection program at American Fish and Seafood Company. American Fish is one of the few wholesales that have elected to have a full-time inspector on premises. The USDC works to manage and update their records so each order is tracked from the vessel to the table.
Today, American Fish and Seafood employs more than 500 people in plants across the nation and operate six large distribution centers including those in Reno, Sacramento, Florida and their 65 thousand square foot headquarters in Los Angeles. Each center specializes in specific seafood products according to their region and demand.
Their plants are equipped with the latest advancements and technologies, allowing them to keep track of market trends, weather changes, food safety and pricing and availability of products.
With each additional plant, a new team of talented and hard working professionals is brought in to uphold and help carry on the values Mr. Doizaki set – the values that continue to be the backbone of the American Fish and Seafood Company.In a business where words like service, freshness and, quality are used interchangeably, the proud team at American Fish and Seafood Company strive to deliver what you need, when you need it… never compromising seafood quality.