He's cracked it: Meet The Lobster Man whose business took off thanks to lockdown
The perils of Brexit Britain and Covid’s impact on the seafood trade have pushed one fisherman from East Lothian to revolutionise his business - and it’s booming.
Stewart Pearson comes from a long line of lobster catchers who have been casting their creels off North Berwick’s coast for more than three centuries.
When the pandemic hit, the 45-year-old feared his business would be crushed with fraught negotiations on trade making the ride even more rough.
But, determined to not let this family business die out under his watch, the fisherman went from selling his catch to seafood merchants and restaurants to running his own lobster delivery and takeaway service.
Earning three times more per lobster than ever before Stewart, who is steering the ship with his partner Gemma Mccann, said he wishes he had made the transformation years ago.
“The new set up has really taken off,” he said, thrilled by his new business venture aptly called The Lobster Man.
“For years we’ve been shipping most of our catch to the continent with just a small percentage going to nearby restaurants, so it was scary when trading ceased during lockdown. But now we’re selling lobster dishes prepared by us locally and business has never been better.”
The move, however, has not been all plain sailing for Stewart and his family.
With trade ceasing overnight and a daughter, Molly, born at the start of lockdown, the lobster catcher had to think quickly on his feet.
“My first attempt to keep business going was to sell live lobsters to people via Facebook,” he said, now laughing at the though of his initial plan.
“It was a bit hopeless.
“Many people don’t know what to do with lobsters when they’re still alive. They don’t know where the meat is or how to prepare it so that wasn’t going to work.”
After receiving feedback from concerned customers who had clearly grappled with the live crustaceans, Stewart figured he needed a chef qualification to put many of his local buyers out of their misery.
“More than 80 per cent of whom I was selling to asked me if I could cook and prepare the lobsters before handing them over," he said.
“They can be messy to be fair.
“I have been cooking them all my life, but I needed the piece of paper to say I could cook for the public.”
Stewart completed a course which earned him a chef qualification by the summer and subsequently bought a catering van which the couple have parked in Fenton Barns Farm Shop to sell their catch from.
The menu, boasting five star dishes including lobster doused in thermador sauce or wrapped up in a brioche bun, soon caught the attention of locals and the pair have been inundated with requests.
Stewart makes his own creels and catches the lobsters daily himself, depending on the weather. He has recently hired a chef due to the increase in demand and Gemma organises packaging and the running of the business.
The company’s motto, 'from boat to plate’ encapsulates the very essence of what they do.
"The lobsters you eat from us have been caught that same day,” Stewart added.
"My daily catch matches what my dad and granddad caught. There’s still plenty of them because we’ve always fished sustainably.”
When asked about how he came up with the name of his new business Stewart said: “Everyone calls me the lobster man, so it had to be that.”