The journey the sea urchin makes from the Channel Islands off Santa Barbara to the consumer is as prickly as the spiny creature’s exterior and the exciting subject of a stunning new SOMM documentary, The Delicacy, which premieres on May 7. It’s a mouthwatering excursion featuring California’s uni divers and the chefs who sing their praises.
Highlighting the rich colors of the California coast — both under and above water — director and SOMM TV founder Jason Wise brings them to life by shooting the entire documentary on Kodak film. Wise delivers a world of natural beauty and the risks of one of the most dangerous jobs to the safety of your own couch. You can almost taste the briny uni, reminiscent of that big breath you take just before diving under a wave.
The Delicacy is the story of the rare and exotic sea urchin — how it’s harvested, how it’s eaten, and the role it plays in nature and the lives of those who bring it to the table. With commentary from some of the most influential and prolific voices in the culinary world including Andrew Zimmern and Ray Isle, the film follows the fascinating historic journey of this food from the ruins of Pompeii to the present day coasts of California, where sea urchin is a prized delicacy not only for humans, but also for sea otters.
“Harvested by hand, risking life and limb collecting food off the ocean floor, because they can make a living out of it,” chef and host of Bizarre Foods Andrew Zimmern says in the film. “It’s done the old fashioned way by real people who are carrying on the legacy of taking food from the ocean that is as old as human history.”
At the heart of the film is a small group of Santa Barbara divers who gather the delicacy from the depths of the ocean including Stephanie Mutz, the only female sea urchin diver who shifted the distribution directly into the hands of consumers, and her partner Harry Liquornik. Also featured is Jim Marshall, a diver who has nearly 50 years of experience and has witnessed the ebbs and flows of the industry as it changed overnight from harvesting the dwindling abalone to the plentiful sea urchin. The film follows their journey through the trials of their profession and how they deal with losing one of their own in a shark incident.
“I am thrilled that food enthusiasts all over the world will now have the opportunity to gain an in-depth look into the extreme environments and physical nature divers must go through in order to bring the delicious sea urchin to our plates,” Wise, who shot the underwater photography, said in a statement. “This film was a labor of love and I can’t wait to share the beautiful documentary with food lovers worldwide.”
SOMM TV is the first full SVOD (subscription video on demand) streaming platform in the wine, food and travel space with exclusive new shows, films and educational content created from the ground up by the team that made the award-winning SOMM documentary series. First-time users to SOMM TV can enjoy all available content with a seven-day free trial.