« January 2007 Table of Contents
One on One: Durwin Daniels
By James Wright
January 01, 2007
Durwin Daniels is a busy man. His promotion to food and
beverage director of The Fish Market in October 2005 has him
running up and down the West Coast to oversee purchasing and
quality control for the seafood restaurant chain's nine
locations (eight in California and one in Phoenix).
But he wouldn't have it any other way. For Daniels, 44, his
occupation is a labor of love. He has spent nearly half his
life, 21 years, working for The Fish Market and has a deep
understanding of the company philosophy and the foodservice
industry. He served as general manager at five of the chain's
restaurants before his promotion and has experience as a sous
Wright: The Fish Market prides itself on being "seafood
in the restaurant business."
Are you a seafood guy or
Daniels: I've always been a restaurant guy, but I'm working
to become a seafood guy. I've always had an appreciation for
seafood, growing up near San Francisco, which has only
continued to grow here.
What are your job responsibilities?
Quality control is the essence of what I do. Quality must
meet our standards from the back door all the way through
production and to when it's served to our guests. It's really
fundamental, but we have an excellent communication system. I
like to think that I'm the hub, but there's a certain amount of
autonomy [at each restaurant]. I think all of our employees
have a sense of partnership in the company. We take a lot of
pride in what we serve every day.
I'm primarily on the road and I spend two days each month at
each location; having nine [restaurants] keeps me busy.
Maintaining our specifications in several markets is
challenging, but Web-based technologies and voicemail
forwarding help unit purchasing immensely.
But I really need to be present, hands-on and involved. My
day starts at 5 a.m. when I check in with Farallon to see
what's available, and they're in constant contact with [dozens
of] vendors. I support the product once it leaves Farallon and
make sure it gets handled properly. It's a team effort and
without [Farallon and the kitchen managers], I wouldn't be able
to do it. I'm excited about , because I have a base to
work from and we have a motivated staff.
You sound busy. How do you
manage your schedule?
I love the chaos; I love the excitement of the restaurant
industry and all the teaching and training. I have an
assistant, Linette Morales, at the Palo Alto office who handles
menu updates and our recipe books. She translates our written
materials into Spanish. Communication is key and she's an
essential component because Spanish is a primary language in
California. All of our kitchen managers are bilingual; about 80
percent of our kitchen staff members speak Spanish.
Personally, I make sure to put Laurelle (his wife of two
years) first and work second in the sense that I balance my
home and personal life. We've been together for 10 years; she
reminds me of what's important. But all the traveling is great,
you really meet some neat, interesting people when you move
outside of your comfort zone.
How much fish
on the menu is fresh?
It depends on the season. Usually we have about 15 finfish
and maybe three or four of them are frozen. [Fresh] selections
in the summer go up to maybe 20.
We print menus twice a day. Some of our restaurants have
different formats, which is challenging. One is quick-service,
three have sushi bars, a couple have retail markets and all of
them have oyster bars.
What's your favorite
part of the job?
Wine. I'm a wine drinker at heart. [The managers] get
together with our "finds of the month" and make up dishes and
pair them with wines. Because of where we are, there are unique
finds everywhere. I have access to everything here, and the two
(food and wine) really tie in together.
Who's your mentor?
Aiden Coburn (The Fish Market's director of seafood
education and quality control), who is also a personal friend;
I've gained so much knowledge from him and appreciate his
willingness to help. I've learned so much from him. He gives
without being asked, which is a true characteristic of a
teacher. I'm fortunate to have worked with him for 20
Two decades is a long time at one company; what keeps you
When I first started, I noticed [The Fish Market] had a
culture I'd never experienced before. There is a sense of pride
here that is unparalleled. In this industry, this is as good as
it gets. If there was a perfect job for me, this is it. There's
not a day that goes by that I have to worry about going to
work. It's a pleasure.
Assistant Editor James Wright can be e-mailed at