Food & Beverage

Stephanie Mutz

Santa Barbara, California

Growing up in Southern California, Santa Barbara’s Stephanie Mutz was once on her way to becoming a marine biology professor, but when the 2008 recession came, she wound up as a rookie deckhand on a fishing boat.

She worked her way up until she eventually had a boat of her own and began showing up at the back doors of restaurants hoping to sell some of her catch. Now, Stephanie commercially harvests urchins and spiny lobsters along the California coast with a team of full-time divers and deckhands–supplying some of the top restaurants in the US. Her business, Sea Stephanie Fish, is in full swing, operating under the ethos of quality over quantity–harvesting less for more value with a conservation focus.

Her knowledge of the ocean and her attention to quality has integrated her with some of the best chefs in California. In her spare time, you’ll find her cooking with her friends, who are also farmers, ranchers, and fishermen. Some folks are just meant for a life on the ocean, and Stephanie is one of those lucky few. We’re happy to have her a part of the YETI team and hope she invites us to her next potluck.
Where is your favourite culinary region or city?
I haven't experienced enough to have a favourite yet. Two restaurant experiences changed my life. Singlethread and n/naka. I didn't know food and a dining experience could be that way.
Tell us about a perfect culinary day there (cooking, dining):
Honestly, cooking with friends is the perfect culinary day. My friends are mostly farmers, ranchers, and chefs, so we all bring a lot to the table, literally and figuratively speaking.
At what age did you know you would be a diver?
I didn't know I would be an urchin diver until I actually became one in my late 20s.
Any industry heroes? Divers or chefs (or anyone in the industry) that you look up to?
Divers: I look up to Harry Liquornik and George Hawkins Chefs: Niki Yakayama from n/naka and Daisy Ryan from Bell's. They are both very thoughtful and make their job look seamless. They do not manipulate ingredients very much. They are patient. They make me want to work harder and better.
Who is someone that you could not do all of this without?
I could not do this without my team. Deckhands Connor and Brett, other fellow divers, drivers, Sara and Jace, and my mom and dad. I especially would not be here without my fellow diver and former business partner, Harry Liquornik. A diver named George Hawkins is another legendary diver that got me into the industry. He was the first boat I worked on as a deckhand, and now we are diving together again.
How do you improve as a diver each year?
I'm learning where good-quality sea urchins are found.
What haven’t you accomplished yet that you aspire to do?
Go on vacation.
Where will we find you on your days off?
You will find me spending time with my friends....most likely cooking and drinking.
What is an ingredient you love?
Rock scallops are probably my all-time favourite.
I am happiest when I am preparing a meal with ______________.
Leftover seafood from my markets.
What are the 3 most essential things you need in the kitchen?
Knife and butter.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a diver?
College professor. I still teach part-time, but it was what I was supposed to be when I grew up, but this whole fishing thing got in the way.
If you could hang with any chef, past or present, who would it be?
I feel very grateful that many of the chefs that I work with are friends too. So we get to hang out often. I would love to hang out more with Chef Jose Andres, but he's busy saving the world.
Why do you need gear that’s Built for the Wild?
I have seafood that needs to keep cold and fresh. I can't let that gear let me down.
What YETI gear can you not do without? Why?
Tundra® 250 Hard Cooler. The length allows me to fit big fish in the best condition.
Can you describe what YETI means to you?
I have full faith that YETI products will keep my seafood fresh and preserved, and they won't let me down when I need it. I have so many things to think about in running my business, and I don't want to have to think about whether my coolers are going to keep my product.
If any YETI product allows you to do something you could not easily do before, please let us know:
YETI coolers me to keep my seafood colder and preserved better. The day I was sold on YETI was the day I had thousands of dollars worth of seafood in a cheaply made cooler, and it leaked the slush my fish were in. Luckily it did not ruin the fish since I discovered the mishap in time, but I realised that I needed to invest in a more reliable product to keep my seafood in the best condition without losing sleep (or my livelihood).