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Chance meeting puts company in the spotlight

Competitors, staff, trainers, and guests at this year's US Tennis Open will get a little taste of Vancouver Island.

Competitors, staff, trainers, and guests at this year's US Tennis Open will get a little taste of Vancouver Island.

Grieg Seafood, a Campbell River-based fish farm company, is the exclusive salmon provider for the tournament thanks to its Skuna Bay Salmon product.

Skuna Salmon will be on the private catering menu for players, staff, VIPs, and sponsors, and will be offered through concessions and other food outlets at the tournament which began Aug. 27 and ends Sept. 9 in Flushing Meadows, NY.

"It's incredibly exciting for us," said Dave Mergle, director of Skuna Bay Salmon, from his home base in Coquitlam.

"The US Open is almost the pinnacle in terms of customer experience. They only select the best products for their guests over the two week period. For us to be chosen as the exclusive salmon is pretty thrilling for sure."

But it almost didn't happen.

Skuna Salmon, which has been gradually expanding across North America, arrived in New York City in June.

Mergle had the opportunity to meet with a top chef in the city, Ed Brown, who also happened to be a menu consultant to the US Open.

"We showed him the fish and he really loved it," Mergle said.

"At that point they had already printed the menus for the Open but he was so impressed that he was intent on getting the Skuna Bay Salmon at the Open.

They actually re-printed all the menus so all the salmon that's served is exclusively from Vancouver Island."

Brown said the special way in which Skuna Salmon is packed and shipped caught his eye.

"Skuna Bay provides consistently high standards for great salmon and after visiting the farms personally and observing how their salmon are craft raised withevery detail considered before being sent to us in New York, I can see why they are able to achieve such consistently great quality," Brown said. "We are proud to be serving Skuna Bay Salmon at this year's US Open."

It's attention to the details that sets Skuna Bay Salmon apart.

"We always harvest in small batches and we only have six people trained to select the fish, which have to meet a certain criteria," Mergle said. "Then we hand clean each salmon and remove every innard possible."

The salmon are then submerged in a sea-water bath to give the fish a nice sheen. Then the salmon are bellied-iced and packaged. The name of the farmer who selected the fish is stickered on the box, giving it the seal of approval. Mergle said after the fish are shipped, the only person that touches the fish is the chef that will be preparing it.