Chef Mark’s Quick Bites: Honolulu Fish Auction

You know the saying, “You have to get up PRETTY early in the morning to pull one over on me”?? Well, We DID get up at 4 AM to make it to the Honolulu Fish Auction before it started! And there was no way anyone was going to pull one over on Brooks Takenaka, the manager of the fish auction!

This is one of the most unique experiences I had in Hawaii, while on the “So Much More Hawaii” tour sponsored by the Hawaii HTA. Most people know that you can enjoy beaches, luaus and mai tais in Hawaii, but they may not know about this aspect of Honolulu which makes alot of the rest of the party possible.

This is where the boats come into port and unload their catch every day, and starting a 5:30 AM, the buyers for all the restaurants in the city as well as wholesalers and reps from restaurants on the mainland and Asian countries put in their bids. Some days there are as many as 100 boats coming to port. On this morning, we had fish from just one boat, so it was clear that the prices would be dear for what fish they brought in.

In this first Quick Bite, Fish Auction Manager Brooks Takenaka gives us an exclusive sneak peek behind the scenes before they let in the buyers. Brooks explains how the process has gone from a simple one to a highly technical and computerized one. That said, the basic process works the same as it always has. His staff unloads the boat and lays out all the fish according to species. For the Tuna, they cut a few core samples and lay them out so the buyers can see the color, fattiness, and general quality of each fish before bidding:

After we get an exclusive sneak peek, the bell rings and they let in the buyers to do their work. We’re lucky to be there, and get to watch the action.

Special thanks to Melissa Chang, our local Honolulu friend, who was the brave soul who got up even earlier than us to drive us out to the Pier for the auction! She’s an amazing person, and writes a great food blog about the many cuisines of Honolulu, The Urban Mix Plate, and she led us on an amazing eating tour all around the city, which I’ll be posting soon!

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