East Lothian's 'Lobster Man' sets his sights on opening his own restaurant

A lobster fisherman believes lockdown made people appreciate seafood more - and plans to open his own restaurant after selling dressed shellfish from a hatch.

Monday, 16th August 2021, 12:30 pm
Updated Monday, 16th August 2021, 3:04 pm

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Stewart Pearson, 45, followed in a family tradition dating back 300 years when he took up fishing despite first training as a hairdresser.

He relied on restaurants for trade before lockdown forced him to start selling cooked lobsters door to door in North Berwick, East Lothian.

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Stewart Pearson at sea catching lobsters.

Dad-of-two Stewart teamed up with wife Gemma, 37, and a chef from a restaurant to sell them pre-cooked from a trailer, named The Lobster Man, after customers struggled to prepare them.

Despite restaurants opening, the shellfish are now being served from the hatch with sauces such as thermidor, garlic, coriander butter, and cajun.

Stewart said: "When lockdown happened we couldn't sell our lobsters to the usual merchants so I decided to start my business, The Lobster Man.

The finest lobsters, fresh landed and served up.

"When lockdown hit, overnight we couldn't sell our lobsters.

"We had lots, but I thought 'what are we going to do? How are we going feed the baby?' "We looked at all the government grants, but we weren't eligible for any of them.

"We were just left on the tide-line to fend for ourselves.

"We would have been absolutely stony broke.

Stewart Pearson selling lobsters North Berwick.

"So we put an advert on my Facebook page, North Berwick Lobsters, saying 'live lobsters can deliver', a lot of people took us up on it, but they discovered preparing them it is not as easy as you think, then we got requests asking us to boil them.

"We had to think quick on our feet."

The couple were unable to receive any government support and worried how they would provide for Ford, aged three, and Molly, aged one.

Stewart Pearson with his partner Gemma McCann.

With lots of lobsters at his disposal with nowhere to shift them, Stewart teamed up with Gemma who had experience in the food industry, and a chef from local restaurant Bonnie Badger, Gullane.

They set up a catering trailer, and started advertising on Facebook saying 'live lobsters can deliver' - but the customers quickly discovered preparing lobster was tricky.

So they decided to work with a chef and deliver cooked lobster.

Stewart then took a food hygiene course, so he could legally start cooking the lobsters before selling them - and now has plans to open a restaurant one day.

He added: "The lobster is cut in half, cleaned out and all the claw meat and everything is taken out of the claws so you don't have to crack anything or go hunting for any meat.

"We even put it into oven-ready dishes with instructions on the lid to just reheat at home or you can collect it hot from the trailer.

"It is all there just ready for you to dig in.

"Lockdown has made people realise what food is actually on their own doorstep and that Scottish seafood is really the best.

"Watch this space, we are planning to make a sit-in area, restaurant, and decking area."

Stewart learned his craft of lobster fishing from his father, on his boat called the "Windward", and from his grandfather too - who kept fishing right up to his passing last year. Stewart added: "He taught me everything I know about fishing. "It was good to spend time with him, which in the past I hadn't really done.

"I wish I had done it a lot earlier.

"When my brother and I were just lads, I remember asking to go out to sea early in the morning with my dad.

"Dad was reluctant saying, 'you'll just get in the way, you'll come out for about an hour and be bored and you'll not be happy.' "We used to end up curled up together in the prow of the boat, with a couple of jackets over us and we would be asleep until we got back in to harbour.

"My mum tried to keep me away from fishing for a long time.

"I'm actually a fully qualified hairdresser.

"When I was a hairdresser, I used to have to get my uniform and trousers pressed so I could get to work all clean and tidy. "Now I don't need to worry what I look like I can just roll out of my bed, I don't need to shave or do my hair."

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