North Shore Poke Company specialized in poke long before the rest. Owner Jackson Long allows the product to speak for itself, and it doesn’t disappoint. With rapid expansion planned for 2017, Jackson wastes no time in responding to our inquiries; he’s got a business to run.
What’s your favorite childhood memory?
My favorite childhood memory was around the 3rd grade in Brooklyn, New York. When my family lived off food stamps, I wanted to buy Captain Crunch, but was denied purchase because that brand cereal was not accepted with food stamps. It was my biggest motivation and became my favorite memory. Every time I’m going through tough times, I always reflect back to that memory and where we used to be.
One food you can’t live without.
Hot dogs. They’re simple, timeless, almost impossible to mess up.
Where is North Shore Poke Company currently located, and do you have plans to open additional locations?
We are currently located in Cerritos, Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa. We have additional locations that are currently building. We hope to have 10 by the end of 2017.
After opening multiple locations, what is the most difficult part about launching a storefront?
It’s definitely dealing with city codes. Every city is different, and that usually can drag on the process for way longer than expected. Another challenge that’s on the same scale is duplicating every store’s product and service, and making sure it’s executed exactly the same way.
A stereotype about your industry, and whether it’s true.
Majority of the population believes poke is sushi. It may contain some of the same ingredients, but it is not sushi. It is made and prepared differently.
How do you prefer your poke assembled?
I prefer my poke assembled with fresh fish and fresh ingredients. At NSPC, I usually get the Sunset with mac nut, avocado and real blue crab.
Most undervalued ingredient:
Mac nut. Put mac nut in your poke. You’re welcome.
What are the favorite toppings by customers?
Our house hot and Waimea drizzle.
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Vietnamese food. Some of it is even better than the motherland.
Where was your most recent meal?
My most recent meal was at Neptunes Raw Oyster & Seafood Bar. I had the uni pasta and soft shell crab buns.
When you’re not in the restaurant, what are you doing in your free time?
I’m constantly working on improving the infrastructure of my businesses. Making sure that we are operating to scale. Everyone sees the final product and what’s presented. It takes countless hours and constant innovation.
Tell us about the inspiration to focus on poke.
My partner, Shawn, was the first to bring poke to the mainland in the U.S. I saw an opportunity for a new market, and fell in love with the product. What still drives me to focus on poke, even though the market is saturated with it? It’s because 99% of the shops are Chipotle-style, using frozen fish and Japanese-inspired ingredients. That’s not real traditional poke. The fish is already lower quality because it’s frozen, and it’s heart-wrenching when I walk into a poke shop and see the lower quality product left open to the air all day long until someone comes and orders.
Majority of the people won’t be able to tell because either they have not had the acquired taste to it yet, or they oversupply you with extra toppings to mask the lower quality. Traditional Hawaiian poke is fresh and simple, so you can actually taste the freshness.
Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Always wash your hands.
Your earliest food memory:
My earliest food memory is home-cooked meals by my mom.
Favorite places to eat.
Ohshima. I don’t eat sushi unless it’s traditional omakase style.
You’re making breakfast; what are you having?
Either a protein shake, poke or hot pocket.
Hardest lesson you’ve learned?
Staying emotionally disciplined. When you are, you won’t lose sight of the vision and goal ahead.
Last thing you looked up online:
Last thing I looked up was new areas/retail space for potential locations.
What profession would you like to try if you weren’t in this business?
If I was not in this profession, I would be an astrophysicist.
North Shore Poke Co currently has three locations in California (and one in Texas!). Learn more at www.northshorepokeco.com.