Food Lover: Stephanie Mutz, Sea Urchin Diver

A day in the life of the state’s only female uni diver

Founder and owner of Sea Stephanie Fish and California’s only female uni diver Stephanie Mutz, founder and owner of Sea Stephanie Fish, is a marine biologist who supplies fresh sea urchin to the premier restaurants in Los Angeles. Here, California’s only female uni diver shares what a typical day looks like for the gal who’s hauling in the ingredient du jour:

 7 a.m. Time to head to the Santa Barbara docks. I gather my gear, check weather conditions and water temperature, and map out where to harvest that day.

7:45 a.m. Navigate my small skiff offshore to the urchin beds, usually by memory. If you put your ear to the bottom of the boat, you can hear their spines softly crackling. That’s a good sign.

8 a.m. Armed with a rake, a bag, and an air hose, I spend the next few hours diving 50 feet below the surface, collecting bags of sea urchin.

10:30 a.m. Tote anywhere from 500 to 1,000 urchin out of the water. That’s less than large commercial operations, but I take only what I need for that week.

10:45 a.m. Haul the urchin back to the docks, where they hang out in submerged cages until they’re ready to be delivered. It’s kind of like baby-sitting. They’re sensitive little princesses.

1 p.m. I chat with chef Jared Levy of the Eveleigh about the sweetness and texture of this week’s haul. Chef feedback is incredibly important, since it determines what areas I decide to harvest from.

3 a.m. Wake up early and drive southward to the Dory Fleet Fish Market in Newport Beach. We make an after-hours urchin delivery at Connie & Ted’s in West Hollywood along the way. I deliver to them so often, they gave me a key to the restaurant.

Stephanie Mutz is one of 25 “Food Lovers” featured in our November, 2014 Food Lovers Guide on newsstands now