The Working Waterfront

When chefs and lobstermen meet, live

Lobster collaborative produces event in New York on July 16

Barbara Fernald
Posted 2018-08-22
Last Modified 2018-08-22

Anyone around Little Cranberry Island would say my husband Bruce, a lobster fisherman, has a knack for getting involved in some very interesting media situations. (See “One lobsterman’s 15 minutes of fame” at

Friends joke that he likes attention from the press, but lately most of the situations have revolved around promotion of the Maine lobster industry. Free travel has been a definite perk to some of Bruce’s marketing adventures, but the events usually involve missing days of fishing (income) to talk elsewhere about Maine lobsters.

In recent years, several opportunities have come Bruce’s way through the Maine Lobster Promotion Council and the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative. He has had some good times, met some cool chefs, and has helped to market the product that sustains a way of life for many Maine families.

The Maine Lobster Promotion Council was established in 1991 to promote lobster sales locally, regionally, and nationally. It was funded by license surcharges. It wasn’t popular with everyone, but it seemed to work. By the early 2000s, the scope was widened to a more national and international presence. The council supported lobstermen through industry advocacy, local and national legislative support, education opportunities, and research and business development.

In 2013 the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative (MLMC) was established to replace the promotion council. It’s funded by Maine lobster harvesters, dealers, and processors to grow demand, both for whole live lobster and a variety of value-added products. It does so by promoting the core values of the lobster industry, which are sustainability and traceability, both of which are deeply rooted in tradition. Maine lobster achieved the Marine Stewardship Council certification in 2013, allowing it to certify its long-standing sustainable practices. The industry has been self-regulating for more than 150 years.

This spring, Bruce was asked by Marianne LaCroix, marketing director for MLMC, if he would take part in an event in New York on July 16 pairing four chefs with four Maine lobstermen. The event would include filmed segments of the chefs working aboard the fishing vessels, in the fishermen’s home cooking the lobster they caught, and sitting at the table sharing their cuisine with the fishermen and their families. Bruce accepted right away. On top of being a long time successful lobster fisherman, he has quite an interest in cooking. 

Two years ago, when Bruce participated in a Maine After Midnight gathering in New York, I was invited to go along. I declined, thinking that a two-night trip would do nothing to lessen my summer overload and anxiety. Now, when I view the YouTube video of the event, it looks like a lot of Maine new-shell lobster fun. I wish I had gone. 

This year, with Bruce’s participation in “Trap to Table: Maine Lobster Live,” I will get a second chance to watch his promotional recreation in action. The fisherman and chef pairs will be: Krista Tripp of Spruce Head and  Dana Cowin of New York; Chris Welch of Kennebunk and Jimmy Papadapoulus of Chicago;
Cyrus Sleeper of Spruce Head and Karen Akunowicz of Boston; and Bruce Fernald of Islesford and Kwame Onwuachi of Washington D.C.

Marianne told me that putting chefs and lobstermen together makes for a powerful combination. “The chefs are extremely interested in speaking to those who produce their food, and even more so with experiencing it first-hand.

At the end of June on Little Cranberry Island, chef Kwame Onwuachi cooked a Nigerian rice dish with the lobster he and Bruce had harvested from traps earlier in the day. Everything was filmed from several angles and the food was delicious.

Next month, I’ll fill you in on what it was like to have a ten-person film crew set up in our island summer house kitchen. When Bruce texted a photo of all the lights and cameras to our son Cameron, who is also a chef, his reply was, “Pretty serious stuff for one of the most basic kitchens in the state.” It was a fascinating day.

In the meantime, you will be able to see all the chefs and lobstermen by watching the live broadcast of “Trap to Table: Maine Lobster Live,” at 8 p.m. on July 16 on the MLMC website It also will be shown on the Daily Meal website,

“It will run for about half an hour,” Marianne reports, “and will include video clips from the filming that we did in Maine as well as live action at the event including the audience reaction to tasting the different dishes that the chefs produced, a new shell/hard shell taste test, and both chefs and lobstermen talking about sustainability.” 

I’m looking forward to a busy day and night in New York to see how the whole show comes together. 

Barbara Fernald lives, writes, and makes jewelry on Islesford (Little Cranberry Island).