If there’s anybody who can adapt and make the best out of extreme situations, it’s Stephanie Mutz, a diver whose skills as an uni and seafood supplier are featured in The Delicacy, the latest Jason Wise (the SOMM series) documentary. If there is a celebrity in the seafood world, it’s Mutz, whose sea urchins appear at such L.A. hotspots as Michael Cimarusti’s Providence and Niki Nakayama’s n/naka. When COVID-19 forced the shutdown of dining rooms, her world changed from one day to the next — but if anybody can find the pearl in an oyster, it’s Mutz.
“Just before the restaurants closed everybody cancelled their orders,” the state’s only female commercial diver tells L.A. Weekly. “The processors are not buying either and they sold to restaurants as well. And the ones open for takeout are not necessarily buying sea urchin or seafood because it’s a luxury item and a delicacy.”
The Santa Barbara uni goddess and marine biologist who has a cult following that reaches all the way to China, says that chefs froze and many still owe her for product she delivered and has long since been devoured.
“You think you have this great relationship with chefs, but when the shit hits the fan and they won’t call you back and avoid your phone calls, credit cards are being declined, it’s frustrating,” she says.
The only restaurant she is currently supplying is n/naka; they use her uni for their takeout bento boxes. The good news for consumers is that Mutz has shifted her business to home delivery and her restaurant quality product is now available to anyone with an ice chest at incredible prices. Depending on her catch and that of the local Channel Islands fisherman she works with, fruits of the ocean can be at your doorstep within 24 hours. Currently in season and available are red and purple Santa Barbara sea urchin,ridgeback shrimp, abalone from @culturedabalone , Channel Islands ocean whitefish, thornyhead fish, Morro Bay oysters from @mboysterco, crab claws, whole crab, Hope Ranch mussels and spot prawns (super limited). King Salmon season starts May 1. There’s no delivery fee, deliveries to your door take place on Saturdays and you can @Venmo for payment or put cash in a bag. Updates are posted on her IG account, @ seastephaniefish.
“It was the last financial crisis in 2008 that made me become a fisherman. I got laid off from my teaching job. I was fishing part time and ventured out to do it full time and it worked. I’m a little older now — wiser yes, but with a little less energy and this is different obviously since we have to factor in our health and the health of our families. But I’ve done it before, and I can do it again.”