Give him the fish-eye 

Rick Berman is general manager of Boutique Seafood, which is owned by Buckhead Life Restaurant Group and serves as a seafood commissary for 12 restaurants.

Why was Boutique created?

Originally, I think it was so Pano [Karatassos] could have control over the quality of product we were serving. I now know more about fish than I ever thought I would. I managed Pano's and Paul's for 10 years and I truly believe our seafood is one of the reasons our restaurants are so successful.

How much seafood are you buying monthly?

Between $500,000 and $600,000 worth. That's 55 varieties of fish and crustaceans.

What seafood is most popular with customers?

Lobster, grouper and sea bass from Peru. It's more expensive than lobster.

And you sell seafood to the public at Atlanta Fish Market.

Yes, on a small scale. [The restaurant] uses probably 40 percent of all our seafood.

Do you think seafood is fresher in coastal vs. landlocked areas?

I don't believe it. I've been to those places and I've not been able to find anything better than here.

Is seafood that is flown in fresher than trucked? What's the ratio?

People think so, but not necessarily. Half is flown in, half is trucked. We are close to the Gulf, so tuna, mahi and snapper are trucked in -- Gulf. You can't ice fish when they are flown -- you use ice packs.

Anything we won't be able to eat this winter because of Hurricane Katrina?

Not because of safety, but because of availability. For the first time ever, the government has closed all grouper fishing in the Gulf of Mexico until the end of the year. That's where we buy all our grouper from. We are trying to decide what to use as a replacement. Our chefs are looking at alternatives, cooking with them, getting guest feedback. It's a process.

chefstable@creativeloafing.com

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