Inside the hidden world of Fortune Fish & Gourmet | Slideshows | Chicago Reader

August 30, 2013 Slideshows » Blogs

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Inside the hidden world of Fortune Fish & Gourmet 

Michael Gebert
Fortune Fish & Gourmet, founded in 2001, serves an area around Chicago (stretching into six states) from warehouses in Bensenville, near O'Hare.
Michael Gebert
Every shipment comes in with bar codes containing information such as country of origin, whether it's wild or farm-raised, etc. This information will travel with the product to the restaurant.
Michael Gebert
This shellfish room will turn over completely five to six times each week.
Michael Gebert
Our guide, Stacy, shows us the difference between east- and west-coast oysters: east-coast ones are curved for gentle waters, west-coast ones have the ridges to withstand more aggressive tides.
Michael Gebert
The busiest room is this one, where large fish such as tuna, salmon, and halibut are broken down to order, all by hand. The only machine used to trim anything is a bandsaw, for the king crab legs.
Michael Gebert
A skilled worker neatly trims an entire fillet off the spine with a few slices running the whole length of the fish.
Michael Gebert
Tuna is graded for different uses; for instance, #1 grade, very lean tuna, is desirable for sushi, but a fattier fish graded #2 is better for cooking, as it won't dry out. The grade is determined at the market by examining a notch cut from the tail, but Fortune can regrade the fish—and adjust the price accordingly.
Michael Gebert
It looks like some hellish vision in which headless fish thrash madly about, but it's actually sea bass, frozen at sea, being "refreshed"—brought back to fresh temperature before being sent out.
Michael Gebert
Lobsters are kept live in tanks, sorted by size. Stacy introduces us to a male, three or four pounds, with what seems like a never-ending set of jaws and pincers.
Michael Gebert
The frozen fish section is much quieter.
Michael Gebert
Different species come from fisheries around the world. Many of the fisheries represented here are sustainable, but Fortune also collaborates with other distributors to buy from marginal fisheries in a way that encourages them to move to better practices.
Michael Gebert
We move on to land with the new gourmet warehouses. Fortune handles distribution for several artisanal beef producers, and it also handles exotic meats—like the llama used at last week's Frontier dinner.
Michael Gebert
JDY Meats had long-established relationships with Spanish ham and cured meat and cheese producers, among others, which Fortune is carrying on.
Michael Gebert
Fortune also distributes a wide variety of artisanal products, ranging from cheeses to local products from Rare Bird Preserves and Scrumptious Pantry to traditional European products still made on family farms.
Michael Gebert
The last warehouse isn't much to look at, but it smells wonderful— the chocolate room. Schultz tells us that one of the fair-trade chocolate producers uses Skype to blend its chocolate, talking back and forth with farmers in Latin America or Africa to get just the right mix shipped to them.
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Michael Gebert
Fortune Fish & Gourmet, founded in 2001, serves an area around Chicago (stretching into six states) from warehouses in Bensenville, near O'Hare.
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