When he was 13, Jamie Gallant started working his first job at the wharf in his home town of North Rustico, cleaning and filleting fish.
Now 54, he’s doing the same thing, but the environment has changed.
Gallant runs a successful seafood catering business in Toronto called Coastline Catering.
“We do 65 different types of oysters, fresh fish, smoked fish, shrimp ... We go out and rock the parties with the seafood,” Gallant said.
He brings most of his seafood in from the East Coast so he can share a particular culinary experience with diners.
“Ninety-nine per cent of my seafood comes out of the East Coast. Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.”
His family has always been in the oyster and clam business. Growing up and working on the East Coast, Gallant developed a fondness for seafood.
In 1988 he moved from P.E.I. to Toronto to work in the restaurant business. Then, he spent seven years in Vancouver catering and cooking seafood.
When he moved back to Toronto in 2000, it wasn’t hard to break back into the restaurant industry there. The chefs in Toronto would track him down when he worked elsewhere — he said they never lost connection.
Around the time he moved back, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) was happening. There, Gallant met the owners of Roots, Michael Budman and Don Green.
“They met me at a TIFF party late one night, early in the festival,” Gallant said.
The pair asked Gallant to cater a TIFF party they had planned. Gallant jumped at the opportunity.
Val Kilmer, Denzel Washington, Anthony Hopkins and many other celebrities were at the party, said Gallant.
But a problem arose the next day when he checked the paper. An article about the event seemed great at first, but Gallant said it read: “The best party at the TIFF this year was held by the owners of Roots; they had succulent shrimp and plump oysters...”
The paper attributed the catering to Roots instead of him.
Gallant called his father back in P.E.I.
“There is a big friggin’ problem,” he told his dad.
“Well you’ve got to change your name immediately,” Gallant’s father told him. Since Gallant had been coast to coast, his father’s advice was to keep the name nautical.
So, Gallant came up with Coastline Catering.
“If you look up the business, you see a lighthouse,” Gallant said.
Along with the seafood, Gallant said his work ethic was fostered on the Island.
When he was 15 years old his dad gave him a job in North Rustico.
“I’ve got a great summer job for you. There are three lighthouses and you are going to paint them all,” Gallant’s father told him.
Despite a fear of heights, he found a way to finish the job.
Gallant has also bounced back from “missing the boat” with the TIFF party press.
“We do up to 200 events a year with all the A-list — the Leafs, the Raptors, the movie stars — everyone knows us in Toronto and It’s all about seafood.”
He loves his home and said he is smart enough to come back and visit.
“I go to P.E.I. three times a year, my best friend lives in Stratford.”
Gallant is excited to come home this September. It is the first time he will be on the Island in for the P.E.I. International Shellfish Festival.
“I’ve never been to it. In all the years I have been so busy with events here in Toronto,” he said.
“I’m going to be shucking oysters. I’m coming down there to work with the boys.”
If you want to follow Gallant and Coastline Catering, find him at Coastlinecatering.ca