We’re hooked on Kai Gourmet in El Segundo
It’s where the South Bay chefs get their fresh catch.
- CategoryEat & Drink
- Produced, styled & written byKara Mickelson
- Photographed byShane O’Donnell
Kai is the Maori (native New Zealand) name for food. In Hawaiian it also means ocean. Put them together and you have Kai Gourmet’s simple goal: to procure the highest quality seafood products from the best producers around the world.
The company started out by chance in 2013 when the America’s Cup for yachting was held in San Francisco. As part of the event, New Zealand wanted to introduce and showcase some of their exceptional quality fresh seafood and dairy products.
Kai Gourmet was created to showcase these items at two pop-up restaurants. Based on the success and positive feedback during the symposium, Kai Gourmet decided to expand the concept to other restaurants after the America’s Cup was over.
Even though Kai Gourmet specializes in New Zealand wild exotic fish—longline and sustainably caught using the Iki Jime method—they have been building their portfolio with other high-end seafood sourced locally and from around the world. The company offers beautiful, sustainable products that customers would not typically be able to obtain.
“Kai Gourmet provides seafood to several local chefs, including David LeFevre of FWD, Chef Darren Weiss of Darren’s Restaurant, Chef Austin Cobb of The Strand House, Chef Juan Torres of Manhattan House, Chef Yoya Takahashi of Umi by Hamasaku and Chef Tyler Gugliotta of Baran’s 2239.”
The move to El Segundo this summer is good news for beach residents and chefs throughout the South Bay and greater Los Angeles area. The new facility will provide more storage and production space.
In addition, the beach location has many perks—including easy access to LAX airport and all of the great chefs and restaurants in the South Bay. It is central to the freeways for their other deliveries in SoCal and the greater Los Angeles area.
Along with a move to El Segundo, the company is currently planning their vision for the future. They are developing a new website to service monthly membership/subscription benefits and home deliveries. Customers will have the ease of ordering online and getting updates on seasonal items and special offers.
They are also expanding their customer base to include more retail consumer outlets such as existing accounts with Eataly in Century City and Cape Seafood and Provisions in Hollywood.
Kai Gourmet provides seafood to several local chefs, including David LeFevre of FWD, Chef Darren Weiss of Darren’s Restaurant, Chef Austin Cobb of The Strand House, Chef Juan Torres of Manhattan House, Chef Yoya Takahashi of Umi by Hamasaku and Chef Tyler Gugliotta of Baran’s 2239. They also supply to Chef Michael Cimarusti of Providence, Chef Ori Menashe of Bestia, Chef Vartan Abgaryan of 71 Above and Chef Pierpaolo Mattei of Bottega Roman, just to name a few.
“The longline fishing methods they use allow them to catch fish in a more humane way,” says president Roger Cox of the Iki Jime method. The lines are typically around 800 yards with individual hooks every two yards and are set in the water with about 400 hooks on each line.
The fish are brought up live, and as soon as they land on the boat deck a sharp metal spike is inserted in their brain to kill them instantly with no pain. This quick-kill method on the boat ensures the flesh is free of lactic acid and stress. It allows for a fresher, more pristine and better tasting product.
“Done well, it can produce excellent fish with a low impact on the environment. Unfortunately bad farming methods such as polluting waterways, overcrowding, using artificial coloring, hormones, antibiotics and even chemicals have given the industry a bad reputation that has unfairly tainted ALL farms, even the very good ones.”
Seine fishing—or trawling—on the other hand, uses a large net, causing undue stress. The trawling method has disadvantages, as the fish can be stressed for a long period of time and they can get “beat up” when pulled onto the boat deck and put on ice. The fish die slowly, which affects the quality of the product.
Roger says his favorite product is, “without a doubt,” Tasmanian ocean trout grilled on the BBQ with a small amount of truffle salt and black pepper. “It’s simple and incredibly delicious,” he shares.
Kai Gourmet is always looking for new, fresh products. They recently discovered an amazing Scottish salmon farm called Wester Ross with hand-raised and all-natural feed product. They don’t use antibiotics, coloring or hormones. Instead they use another fish called a wrasse that eat any sea lice around the salmon—keeping them free of pests in a natural, healthy way. They also have Tartuflanghe truffle products and a wide selection of Calvisius caviar all year round.
As for farm-raised fish, Roger says farming is one of the most misunderstood parts of their business. “Done well, it can produce excellent fish with a low impact on the environment. Unfortunately bad farming methods such as polluting waterways, overcrowding, using artificial coloring, hormones, antibiotics and even chemicals have given the industry a bad reputation that has unfairly tainted ALL farms, even the very good ones.”
Kai Gourmet is predominantly a B2B company that distributes mainly to high-end chefs and restaurants in the greater Los Angeles area and around the U.S. They also sell to the public, but because they don’t have a brick-and-mortar store they haven’t actively been reaching out to the public.
However, that will change with the move to El Segundo. They won’t have a true brick-and-mortar operation, but they want to stay connected to the local community and build strong relationships while offering exceptional products online and for pickup.