For those of us that love fresh seafood we are currently living in what many might consider a golden age. Refrigeration technology, expedited air travel and an unyielding hunger for the finest fish have led us to a time when location has almost no impact on the overall quality of the final product. But even with increased availability and sustainability, it takes knowledgeable butchers, fishmongers and chefs to make a great cut of seafood into a spectacular dish. For the Oruch family at Plano’s Sea Breeze Fish Market & Grill, that talent and expertise seems to run in their DNA.
Rick Oruch and his son Ryan can be often seen scurrying about the Plano restaurant, as well as their second location, Sea Breeze Lobsta and Chowda House, a food stall inside Legacy Hall. They play almost every role imaginable in the trip from the coastline to customers’ plates. “We’re at the airport two or three times a week,” Rick said. “We’ve gotten pretty good at planning our driving route to avoid traffic.”
While Texas isn’t landlocked by any means, it’s so enormous that it takes 290 miles to get from Plano to the nearest coast. Yet seafood markets not only survive, but thrive in this area. “With such an influx of people coming in to Texas, they’re used to fish. Once they find us, they’re hooked,” Rick said, smiling at the obvious pun.
Open almost 13 years now, Sea Breeze Fish Market & Grill is truly a family affair. While Rick works with Ryan to run the day-to-day operations, son Jason handles the marketing and online presence, and wife Teri works diligently behind the scenes. Longtime staff members also feel like family, with most having worked there more than five years.
The dining space is intimate, but relaxed. The long fish case stretched across one side of the market is layered with ice, filets, mollusks, shellfish and boldly displayed whole fish. But the case isn’t packed to the brim with every creature that slinks through the sea. It’s a modest selection that Rick said is just what he wants to serve.
“I buy whole fish and filet it here. Because weather is such a big factor in what’s fresh, I sell what I have, never what I think I’m going to get.”
Ryan continued, “We aren’t afraid of being out of something, we’re actually a little proud of it. We don’t have a huge deep freezer where we can thaw something out on the fly.”
What many notice when walking into Sea Breeze is the smell, or more importantly the lack thereof. It doesn’t smell like…well, anything. That absence of the stereotypical “fish market” stench makes Ryan and his dad proud. “When we teach cooking classes, one of the first things we tell them is fresh fish doesn’t smell. You can’t hide that, you can’t change that.”
All fish in the case have bright skin with glassy translucent eyes and no odor whatsoever. “My dad loves to say, ‘The nose knows.’ We have tables three feet away from the fresh fish case. That’s the connection you have here that you don’t have anywhere else,” Ryan said.
The old adage about never going into business with family seems to be untrue in the Oruchs’ case. The two spend most of their time cleaning fish, coming up with menu ideas and making puns. Due to the volatile nature of fresh seafood, Sea Breeze changes its menu every week of the year, rotating from halibut and salmon dishes to snapper and flounder – or whatever is freshly caught that week. “I call it a chef’s dream and a chef’s nightmare,” said Ryan. “It’s fun for us and fun for our guests.”
Sea Breeze is genuine; serving fresh seafood can’t be faked. It takes more than just the ingredients themselves, but a passion for the entire experience.
“I’m very proud to say that I don’t work for my dad, but I work with my dad,” Ryan clapped his hand across his father’s shoulder. “It’s all about relationships. This isn’t a job for us, it’s a life. We don’t come to work if we’re not having fun.”Sea Breeze Fish Market & Grill >