The Chef: Mary Redding

January 24, 2012

If I could do one thing right now, I would go to my old West Village hood in New York City, put my name on the list at Mary’s Fish Camp, and wait as long as it takes to sink my teeth into my all time favorite Lobster Roll. For dessert, my all time favorite Hot Fudge Sundae (made with house made fudge!). I love ya Los Angeles, and while there are some decent contenders, you have nothin’ on a MFC lobster roll.


Not only do I love MFC because of the food, but also because of the treasured dinner table memories made with beloved friends over a bowl of buttery cockles, wine and pure goodness that fills the space that Mary has created with her heart and soul. Thank you for feeding me Mary, and thank you for all the lobster love.

And on another MFC note, it’s time to mark your calendars for June 9 and the upcoming Lobster Roll Rumble!! The event will benefit Share Our Strength, a nonprofit organization to end childhood hunger. You know I will be rooting for Mary’s Fish Camp!!

This just in:  MFC won the Lobster Roll Rumble!! (I knew she would)  Congratulations Mary!!

how did you get into seafood?
I love seafood! Perhaps initially because I am from Miami, Florida. I spent almost every waking minute swimming, sailing, snorkeling, scuba diving and fishing for 18 years. I grew up on a lake and the ocean was 20 minutes away. I like being connected to the Earth, it’s cycles (fishing seasons) and it’s changes (insane weather conditions for fishing and harvesting). As far as preparation, it is immediate satisfaction. Most seafood is very good for your health, and then some. Also, I like that we try super hard to source only sustainable fish for our menu.
I get freaked out like everyone else about our oceans.

what did you want to be when you were little?
I always wanted to be a Chef. Seriously, as far back as I can remember this is all I ever wanted to do. Besides playing Stagecoach, where I would tie our family mutt to the front of a picnic table and I would drive the coach (the table) with her leading me across the US on adventures, I would pretty much play a lot of either: I am your Chef, or server, or take out window girl. Thank goodness I did not stick with take out window girl as a career. And clearly, I watched too much Bonanza and Big Valley before entering grade school. Barbara Stanwick in cool cowboy clothes. Enough said.

what was it like at your dinner table when you were a kid?
The dinner table at my house was actually not the most pleasant place to be. My father was extremely abusive verbally and physically. A lot of this came out at the dinner table, as he required a minimum of two gin martinis per evening prior to sitting down. Fuel for his fire. My mom is a great cook and would put some serious effort into breakfast, lunch and dinner for four kids and my dad. Memories are of the ice tray being jostled a second and often third time, my stomach growling as we all waited for him to down his liquor, dinner getting cold, and then trying to eat under the radar. I could never fly under the radar. The kitchen is where I had sweetness. My mom.

what’s your typical work day like?
My work day is spent often doing back of the house paper work at Brooklyn Fish Camp, preparation for Oystergirl, and then working the line at Mary’s Fish Camp. My favorite is working the line. It is sweet and probably like meditation.  Clearly, I have been doing this too long.

what is the biggest pain in the arse about having a seafood restaurant?
The biggest pain in the arse in serving seafood is probably the customer’s miseducation and fears.

what would you be doing if you weren’t a chef?
If I were not a Chef with a child, a mortgage, two and one half restaurants and 36 employees, I would be in Haiti doing anything I could.

what are your favorite nyc restaurants?
My favorite restaurants in NYC…
Sushi Yasuda
Sushi Yasuda
Sushi Yasuda
(Au Pied Du Cochon in Montreal a close second)

i’ve been in your restaurant when celebrities have been asked to wait for a seat just like everyone else. for whom would you make an exception?
I have three exceptions who should never wait for a table at MFC: My daughter (who comes at least two times a week), my mother (who has been there once in the 10 years), and Jodie Foster (who may never come).

what is your kids favorite homemade meal by you?
My daughter Lillian’s favorite homemade meal (currently) is pork tamales. This could change on a dime. My girl knows her food, she has an amazing sense of smell and palate.

what is the secret to a really good lobster roll?
The secret of our lobster roll. I could tell you…but then I would have to kill you. In any cooking situation, the secret is freshness of your ingredients.

presidents obama, george w. and clinton all enter your restaurant at the same time.  there are two available seats.  who has to wait?
The two available seats would go to Obama and Bill. I love them both. We would have to inform GW that the list is full and we are no longer taking names.

new west village or old west village?

what do you collect?
Collect? I live in NYC. Minimal collection. I have a small collection of patches.

photos by heather phelps-lipton