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Behind the Scenes: Ian Bailey of Atlanta Fish Market

Ian Bailey, holding a red snapper (photo credit Alexa Lampasona)

Ian Bailey, holding a red snapper (photo credit Alexa Lampasona)

Growing up on Long Island, I spent the summers on the water. Taking off in the boat, fishing. When I came down to Atlanta I was nervous and shell-shocked because there was no water around.

Bailey found his source of water at Atlanta Fish Market, where his uncle is Executive Chef Robert Holley. The two reunited at a family celebration in New York ten years ago. Bailey was having trouble working in the city after September 11th, so he asked his uncle for a job. A week later he packed his bags and moved South. This year marks ten years as Manager of the retail market.

Atlanta grew on me. My favorite part is the customers. We have roughly 70 percent regulars. I know their names and what they order. Sometimes they’ll come to me and ask me, “What do I want today?”

One day I might cook 20 to 30 pieces of salmon, another day I’m frying shrimp or calamari for a to-go order. We have a way to keep it interesting for our customers when we cook something up. I usually cook it halfway to leave them some time to go home and reheat. 5-10 minutes.

We give people the finest cuts and then the scraps we chop up and put in gumbo. Chef Holley can have about 500 pounds of fish in the back at any given time. One tuna may weigh 100 pounds, each is delivered as a whole fish. There are four of us at the fish counter that filet and clean everything.

My favorite fish is the skate wing, because its sweet like scallops and flaky like flounder. We used to catch it all the time back in the day when we went fishing, and it looked so ugly that we would cut the line and throw it back. Now it turns up on menus all the time.

Every year my uncle and I fly up to Montauk, the end of Long Island, for a fishing trip. We catch stripe bass, flounder and fluke. This year will be 14 years. It’s like a mini family reunion and they know we are going to cook fresh fish for them.

I learned a lot from my uncle. Cooking, managing time, organizing and being efficient in what you do. On Sundays, our day off, we cook all the time. We love ribs. The last thing we think about eating is fish since we are tasting it all week long.

We won’t sit down with a plate of 14 different fish, but we cook up the fish we get from our distributors for quality control. That’s what we strive on, the freshest fish in the city.

-By Alexa Lampasona for the Food & More blog

10 comments Add your comment

Debbie Bailey

January 14th, 2014
1:17 pm

Ian is the best!

Rick Berman

January 14th, 2014
1:39 pm

Everyone wants to see Ian when they come to the Fish Market! Great job Ian!

Kay Williams

January 14th, 2014
1:44 pm

Where are you located?


January 14th, 2014
2:02 pm

Great place. Fortunate to have them around.


January 14th, 2014
2:45 pm

Kay Williams, here’s their location and phone number: 265 Pharr Rd NE, Atlanta, GA 30305
(404) 262-3165 You should go, the do a very good job with all things seafood.

Buckhead Native

January 14th, 2014
4:01 pm

I know it has nothing to do with the food, but all that advertising along the fence that lines the parking lot is just about the tackiest thing ever for an outfit that prides itself on fine dining.

Barbara Lenci

January 14th, 2014
5:17 pm

Love this ! Paul and I will have to come to Atlanta now … Miss you


January 14th, 2014
8:39 pm

The Atlanta Fish Market has been one of my favorite restaurants or many years. I love the crab cakes and the Lobster roll…….yum….making me hungry as we speak.


January 15th, 2014
8:39 am

Great Job Ian and conratulation on the10 years!


January 16th, 2014
11:51 am