Martina Demmel on fresh fish and storms on the Maldives.
Martina Demmel is responsible for one of the most sensitive areas in the food trade: fresh fish. She talks about how she makes sure that only the freshest of fish lands on the counter every day. A conversation about trust, control and storms on the Maldives.
Your job is to make sure that there is enough fresh fish here every day. What’s a regular day on the job for you?
That’s hard to say, because there is never really a regular day on the job here. One of the constants is getting up early. My day starts at 7 a.m. at the latest. That’s when the fresh fish arrives, the customers come to the market and I get the first call from suppliers that have a load of fresh sole coming in from the French Coast, for example. Now in case any complications come up and I am forced to buy a supplemental load in Bremerhaven, everything has to be in place by 12.00 p.m.– that’s the deadline for orders there.
When do complications come up?
Our work is influenced by any number of factors that can change from day to day. Prices and supply change with the weather and the conditions at sea. If there’s a storm on the Maldives, that has major impact on the market – the tuna fish tend to not show up on time or at all. It’s hard to forecast those kinds of things.
What do you do in cases like that?
Do the research, work the phones and use your contacts. We have a very dependable, hand picked network of suppliers – if you react quickly enough, it is usually possible to find a solution on the same day.
You also offer live fish. How do they get here?
In regular water tanks equipped with an external oxygen supply and then loaded onto trucks. Only the crabs and king crabs get special treatment: they each get a little nest made of wood wool during transport.
What criteria do you apply when choosing a supplier?
As a ground rule we only work with established partners, who are European Union certified. But before a trade partnership with a supplier can begin, they have to possess an additional series of certificates and agree to provide us with a number of additional product specific analyses. We take a look at the sites as well. I recently visited a Bream farm in Spain – to maintain contacts on one hand, and to get a better look at the entire process on the other. I went out on the boats, had a look at the cages, and helped at feeding time. Then I had a look at the factory where the fish is then packed and shipped. We want our customers to be able to trust us – and so we have to be able to trust our suppliers 100% as well.
How close is your contact to the customers?
Very close, fortunately. I spend a lot of time down in the market every day keeping an eye on the product and talking with customers. On top of that, many of the restaurants that I eat in are our customer’s. They buy their fish here and I am always happy to get positive feedback from the chef or the manager. That’s one of the reasons why I like my job so much.
Why else do you like your job?
This isn’t just a job for me, it’s part of my identity – I love eating and drinking with all my senses. When I’m on vacation I always hit the fish markets in the hope of finding something that I didn’t know before. I couldn’t image just selling screws or something.