Riding shotgun with restaurateur Brian Poe.
Summer is coming and around here that means a lot. New England like no other place on earth will transform into a garden of good times. It also means that after almost nine months of quietly waiting, the Atlantic Ocean once again becomes the place to be.
Summer is not just about the beach however because with the change in temperature our taste buds also wake up. Whether you’re on the North Shore, South Shore, Cape or The Islands, I think we can at least all agree one thing…Lobster. Is there anything more beloved in New England than our Lobster? What if I told you it could feel like Summer all year long?
I’m always on the lookout for a great Lobster Roll and I recently stopped by a new player in town called Luke’s Lobster. Luke’s is a Back Bay establishment that was opened last year by Maine natives Luke Holden and Ben Conniff. These childhood friends are on a mission to make the Lobster a more regular part of our daily routines and to do it serving 100% traceable and sustainable seafood. Call it our own little Lobster Shack right in the heart of the city.
Currently Luke and Ben are on a roll with locations now in Boston, New York, New Jersey, DC, Philadelphia, Chicago and Las Vegas. I recently caught up with the pair to learn more about their story and of course, their Lobster.
Do you remember the first time you had Lobster?
LUKE: My father had customers visiting from Japan and invited them back home for a lobster bake. I remember this because my brother Bryan and I were playing with the lobster in the kitchen. We used to race them from one end of the kitchen to the next!
BEN: When I was 7 or 8, my family rented a cottage for a week in Five Islands, Maine, a short walk from the Five Islands Lobster Coop, a lobster dock and restaurant owned and operated by the local lobstermen. My dad brought me down to the dock at dawn to watch the boats steaming in for gas and bait and heading out for the day. Late in the afternoon we came back and bought lobsters right off the boat. We brought them home and steamed them with the family that night, and I was hooked for life.
When did you know you wanted to make your love for Lobster into a business?
LUKE: I knew I wanted to be a part of the lobster industry the moment I stepped onto the back of a lobster boat. I grew up on and off the docks and in seafood processing plants, but it was not until I actually worked as a lobster man that i fell in love with the industry.
BEN: I’ve loved seafood my whole life, but as a hobby. When I turned 24 I realized that working in media was not making me happy and I needed to pursue my passion, which was food–preferably seafood. It was not until I found Luke’s post on Craigslist looking for a partner in August 2009 that it felt like fate had come full circle, and the passion for the lobster industry I developed in Five Islands could become a profession, not just a pastime.
What is different about Luke’s procurement of Lobsters?
LUKE & BEN: Simple, we work directly with communities of fisherman to bring the freshest lobster directly to our guests. There are no middlemen. No extra handing, no extra costs.
The Lobster Roll is a pretty sacred food item here in New England. What makes yours so good?
LUKE: see above! in addition to how we procure, we handle and cook our lobster in a state of the art seafood cooking facility. we grade all the lobster claws by size and steam each claw to the optimal temperature to ensure that the meat is cook just right EVERY time.
BEN: I will just add that because we are dealing with the absolute best ingredients possible, we take care never to smother that quality with excess mayo, butter, or filler. We make very simple roll with light-handed accents that keeps our amazing lobster center stage.
If you’re going to make Lobster at home, what’s your favorite way to cook it?
LUKE: When I cook lobster I typically grill the tails and steam the claws and legs.
BEN: Same. And I make sure to make stock from the bodies that I can then use for soup, risotto, and pasta sauce.
What’s your favorite way to eat it?
LUKE: Our traditional Maine lobster roll is my favorite way to enjoy lobster. But, I also love eating the tails right off with the grill, with lots of butter of course!
Ben: (laughs): Sorry to be repetitive, but Luke described it exactly how I would – our rolls with 1/4 lb of lobster meat, atop a toasted split top bun, with just a wipe of mayo and a drizzle of lemon butter and seasoning. It’s simple, but the best way to enjoy.