Patricio Osses | Sea Searcher
Twice a week, Patricio Osses gets a call on his cell phone while he sits in Manhattan traffic. It's his father, down on the Chilean coast, telling him which strange sea creatures just caught in the Pacific will be arriving at JFK International Airport the next morning. Chefs with a yen for congrio dorado (a pink, eel-like fish), merluza (an Antarctic cod with impressive teeth) or choro zapato (a mussel the size of a man's shoe) also have Osses on speed dial. His three-year-old company, Pacifica International, grew out of a business started by his father, also an importer. Patricio narrowed its scope--"I decided to concentrate on just the Chilean fish," he says--and made the rear of his van his center of operations. He sells his seafood to Rick Moonen of Oceana and Rocco DiSpirito of Union Pacific; Ken Oringer of Boston's Clio, Osses's first non-New York City client, can't get enough of his picorocos, shellfish that look like little volcanoes. (Not everything his company drags out of the sea receives such raves. Piures, tiny shellfish that taste strongly of iodine, got a big thumbs-down.) His unusual vocation has made Osses a minor celebrity in hisnative country; a Chilean television crew recently tailed him at New York's Fulton Fish Market, much to the amusement of his fellow fishmongers. Osses just laughed along with them. He knew that the next day he'd be back in his van, waiting for his cell phone to ring.