Off The Hook Seafood Festival
Local Santa Monica restaurants and residents gathered at the Santa Monica Pier for the 4th annual Off the Hook’s Seafood Festival on Saturday, October 6. The event is a fundraiser to raise money and environmental awareness for Heal the Bay, a non-profit organization who advocates to clean coastal waters and rivers in the Greater Los Angeles Area.
For a ticket price of $50, attendees could choose from over 30 tents from local restaurants, wineries, breweries and other organizations gathered under the sun to serve fresh local seafood and drinks to the hungry crowd. The event also featured a beer garden that served beer, wine and Japanese whiskey. Attendees also had a chance to play games like giant corn hole and larger than life size connect four while a local Venice band, Brightside, played soft funky reggae beach rhythms at the corner stage of the pier. “I think it’s a really good event and it’s bringing the community together. There’s a lot of local representation and it’s nice to feel one with our community,” said Jennifer Bennett, Fairmont Hotel Manager.
Most of the seafood provided at the event was caught locally off the California coast. Vendors spoke with environmental consciousness about the importance of purchasing local seafood and eating sustainability. “We buy seafood directly from fishermen all over California. Our focus is on bait fish and by catch. Bait fish would be seafood that is abundant in California, but typically shipped and used outside the state as bait to get other fish,” said Trash Fish founder Ren Ostrey.
The concept to buy local is no stranger to Santa Monica. According to the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce (SMCC) website, SMCC provides a list of Top 8 Reasons to Buy Local. Some reasons which include helping the Santa Monica economy, the environment and creating local jobs. Ostrey continues, “So if we can elevate it and keep it local, we’re cutting food miles, and we’re celebrating our local bounty.”
The event that drew the largest crowds was the oyster shucking contest. Each contestant was tasked with prying open as many oysters as possible in under two minutes. Eight competitors, mostly restaurant cooks, took to the stage to show off their shucking skills. The crowd closed in on the stage cheering and inspiriting the competitors. Tony Aguillar, from Chaya restaurant, came out victorious, shucking over 12 oysters. “It’s great to have all these restaurants who compete with one another at one place enjoying themselves and coming together for the community,” said Off The Hook organizer Kim Koury.
The day began to descend as DJ Cool Whip spun to the end of the festival. The sun set slowly as the lights from the carnival rides grew brighter. The festival reached its end in hopes that they’ve brought environmental awareness and sustainability to the conscious hearts and minds of the Santa Monica people. Heal the Bay aquarium director Marslaidh Ryan explained: “This is the fourth time this event has gone on. This year all the proceeds go to Heal The Bay which is a first for us and were really excited to a part of this organization and to have all the benefits comes to us. We're right here at the Pier and the Aquarium."