The Fish Forager

When L.A.'s top chefs want the best, they call Julee Harman

When Hungry Cat's David Lentz wants 3,000 Gulf Coast blue crabs for his annual Crabfest, he calls Julee Harman, founder of Ocean Jewels Seafood, who has supplied L.A.'s top chefs with hard-to-find and sustainable fish since 1985.

The forager was hauling unique fish in her pickup truck long before sardines, monkfish and spot prawns became trendy. Her business grew as local chefs–and their customers–got more adventurous. "Some started taking risks, and the others followed," she recalls.

Ocean Jewels is also known for sourcing the freshest, most sustainable seafood. Harman delivers first-rate, line-caught king salmon, Northeast bluefish and local wild sea bass, uni and squid to places like Lucques, Jar and Grace, and brings those amazing Ipswich clams to Mozza for its pizza. From hand-harvesting to cleaning and shipping within 48 hours, it takes a lot of work to put out such quality products. "It really makes all the difference," she says.

Although she doesn't sell retail, Harman has three tips for buying the best seafood at your local market:

Use Your Eyes If the bloodline is visible on the steak or fillet, make sure it's red and not faded or brown.

Don't Be Shy Pull the fish up to your nose; it should smell clean and briny.

Touch It Press a finger to the skin. It should have elasticity and bounce back without leaving an indentation.