See this guy? In Lebanon, New Jersey, there’s a fresh seafood joint called Metro. And in there, you might find the Funky Fishmonger. If you do, you might just change your life for the better with the taste of a single complementary oyster or bite of sashimi-grade tuna and the wisdom Mark will share with you.
I first encountered the Funky Fishmonger in videos on social media. Most people know I’m a complete freak about food, seafood in general, and specifically the magnificent lobster. So as you can imagine, I see a lot of cooks and chefs doing their thing. Mark’s thing was different. Watching the easy style and sharply edited short preparations, one gets the feeling they could easily make what Mark’s making. And boy, does he cook. We, the viewer, are Mark’s “Little Chefs” and the passion of the Funky Fishmonger is to make sure we understand the value of seafood, respect for the ecosystem which makes for the quality product, and the absolute bliss of eating and sharing dishes made with love. His look is one of a seasoned and well-traveled man, a sharp dandy dresser, a purveyor of taste and distinction, someone you can drink a whiskey with, fire up a cigar, and converse poetically on any and all topics. Seafood will be at the top of the list. Likewise, family, friends, his remarkable staff of associates—this is life at its richest. One other thing, he’s a heck of a lot of fun.
When I approached Mark for the opportunity to present answers to my 5-questions series, I offered he could respond in writing, or even as recorded dialogue which I would transcribe. He was having none of this. Only a full-feature live video would do, arranged and edited by his right-hand man, Jack. Jack does the tech and produces the episodes with Mark and their popularity has skyrocketed in the last couple of years. The Funky Fishmonger does a short introduction, cooks a dish (often with some tasteful soulful music), and then he “goes deep”. With a fork or spoon, or sometimes his “meathooks”, he takes a bite. There’s a moment of symbiotic rapture between host and guest (us), his head shakes in approval, his fingers rise, circling in a sort of Italian-style pinched-purse gesture of profound gratitude, and then he tells you what’s going through his mind. Lemon, parsley, butter, the fish, so tender and flaky, the sauce so rich and luxurious … he breaks off a piece of fresh bread as one does, dips it in the sauce for a second take, and then he lets you know how much he loves what he does: sharing some technique, some simplicity, some sense that you can do as he did and make something extraordinary at home to share with family and friends. “I love cooking for you, my Little Chefs. I’ll see you at Metro.” His sign-off makes you want to go right to the next episode until you’ve binged the series. This is what I felt when I wrote him the following:
Thanks for extending me your email. Here's the deal. I absolutely dig your stuff. Your style, the dishes you prepare, as I said, next time I'm in NY, I'm coming down there to load up on serious seafood. I consider myself—having watched nearly all of your videos—a huge fan and hopefully, a "Little Chef". I'm a banger with scallops; I can get that sear, with the pink middle just coming up to the sweet sublime buttery middle.
I do a little blog, many topics, with about 5,000 folks. This is me, by the way:
Tom Miller is a playwright, screenwriter, performance artist, musician, director, sound designer, actor, painter, and the host of the longest running continuous live variety show in America, The Tom Miller Show. Mr. Miller holds a BA in Theatre from the University of Florida and an MFA in Screenwriting in the David Lynch MFA Screenwriter's Program at Maharishi International University. Mr. Miller enjoys lobster, martinis, and hosting The Reverend Angeldust's Tabernacle of Hedonism in Gainesville, Florida - the Known Center of the Universe.
The format is I ask 5 questions, and you do 5 answers. I post it with a nice photo and how to check out your videos, Metro, and I'll say really nice stuff in the introduction. That's it. You know I won't get the quotes wrong because you're doing them. And that could be in writing, or you could just say stuff and wing me an mp3 file for transcription; whatever's easy. I hope you're game for this because truly this is about me being a fan. For you, free advertising. For me, just a thrill to share the word. I wish I had a deeper agenda, but their ain't one. I'm an artist, I like food, I got friends who like food. And style. That simple.
Here are the questions:
- How did "Funky Fishmonger" come about?
- Describe a perfect day filled with passion, romance, nostalgia, and ambition?
- What's the big dream for the Funky Fishmonger's future?
- When I go to Metro, what's going to blow my mind?
- Of all the seafood dishes you prepare, which one is the Bomb? (And ya' gotta' pick one. I know, they're ALL the bomb. One.)
One more thing: My dad used to take me to nice seafood dinners in Miami as a young boy (I was privileged, silver spoon and all). I was a shitty kid, and he was the greatest dad. Too late, I got my act together, got some degrees, accomplished some stuff. But nothing brings me back to dad like a plate of Lobster (I'm a lobster freak), or Coconut Shrimp. An old-style restaurant, The New England Oyster House, was the place. Specifically (even though they're really sort of warm water langoustines), the South African Lobster Tail just sends me to Mars. They were really popular in the 80s; nowhere to be seen these days, maybe online. They were stupid money too. Worth every penny, so long as they bring enough drawn butter.
Thanks for your passion, your style, your videos, you sound like a guy anyone would want to have a drink with, and maybe a bite of Red Snapper? We have those in abundance in my weird upside-down state of Florida. Once, I was invited to cook Red Snapper in Ceder Key, and they gave me the dullest knife in the world. I got so frustrated trying to filet this thing like a Michelin chef (hopeless, like sawing down a tree with a pencil), I just flung the whole thing into the grill fire and closed the lid. A short time later, everyone was saying what a great chef I was. Lol. Redfish!
Give it some thought. No pressure. You can say, no thank you. You're busy, careful with the brand, I get that. But I'm the genuine article, and I will add 5,000 people who are going to know about Metro. I'm not an "influencer", I don't want any free stuff, but when I make it to NYC and Metro, hopefully there's some lobster there looking to be loved.
-- Tom Miller
(Maybe you get a kick out of this. I think a raw oyster is the world's greatest food.)
So now, after all this my friends, I leave you to the words and world of Mark Drabich himself, the Funky Fishmonger. Here is the video with all the answers. I’d like you to watch it. Then, I’ll provide links and I want you to discover Mark and Metro. And finally, I’d like to thank Mark and Jack for extending both the time and talent to produce this video for my 5-questions with Tom Miller series. This SubStack is free and full to all public readers, but please consider a subscription if you like what you see. More importantly, subscribe to the Funky Fishmonger to see all Mark’s recipes and become a Little Chef.
And if you’re ever in Lebanon, New Jersey, see you at Metro.
Find MORE of the Funky Fishmonger at the following links:
METRO SEAFOOD: https://www.metroseafood.com/
THE VIDEO - FUNKY FISHMONGER ANSWERS 5-QUESTIONS
Mark Drabich - Production by Mark & Jack