Rod Browne Mitchell is a leading national authority on caviar, on fine wine, and on what constitutes the finest fresh seafood on the market. It is this expertise that keeps chefs from some of the most prestigious restaurants in America coming back to Browne year after year. Chefs such as Daniel Boulud, Eric Ripert, Thomas Keller, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten have been relying on Rod’s knowledge and passion for pristine quality seafood for decades.
It is this reputation for only providing the most pristine quality seafood that has helped Rod build from the ground up the industry leading company you see here today at Browne. During that journey, Rod has played a significant role in the shaping of the whole fine dining industry in the United States. In the words of Chef Dan Barber, “In the past 25 years, Rod has advanced, and transformed American fine dining, providing access to the best and freshest fish available. In his standards, his scope, and his remarkable eye for quality, Rod is unsurpassed. Nothing is lost in translation, or transportation, from ocean to plate.”
Rod was raised on the coast of Maine in a family steeped in true Maine traditions, including fishing, hunting, and guiding. It was through spending time with his Grandfather as a child that Rod first developed his passion for the sea and fishing. This obsession was further developed through working with his uncle fishing by hook and line out of Boothbay Harbor, and with his cousin, a guide on the Kennebec River.
Rod spent summers in his early career at the side of a striper guide out of Boothbay Harbor and as a launch tender at Camden Yacht Club. It was at Camden Yacht Club where he met Bruce MacDiarmid, (owner of a chain of wine stores) who took Rod to a run down Mill in Camden, Maine and told him “I just brought it, and I’d like you to help me rebuild it.” MacDiarmid then asked Rod whether he wanted to run the wine store he was installing. Rod, while not knowing anything about fine wine, said yes. After a crash course from MacDiarmid, Rod began rapidly learning how to appreciate fine wine and where best to source it from.
With his keen entrepreneurial eye and spirit, Rod went on to buy the wine store in 1979. The cheese and wine store was called Winemporium and provided Rod with an excellent arena to cultivate his taste for fine wine and food.
The “Go to” Guy for Rising Stars
It was at the Winemporium in the early 1980’s where Rod met Chef Jean Louis Palladin. Jean Louis, new to the United States and frustrated with the quality of seafood, asked Rod to find him fresh scallops. From Rod’s knowledge of the local waters, experience as a scuba diver, and understanding of the local fishing culture, the now classic “Maine Diver Scallop” was introduced to America’s cuisine at the talented hands of Chef Palladin.
Rod’s true professional expertise had been discovered. His love of the sea, the thrill of the discovery and hunt, combined with his passion for great food and perfection now combined in the pursuit of new products for Jean Louis. Soon live urchins, Piballes (glass eels), live Lamprey, and the sweet Maine crab meat which he coined “Peekytoe” (from the name “picked toe” used by the cottage industry of Maine crab pickers) were being served at the finest restaurants in the country.
As more young talented chefs were trained or inspired by Jean Louis Palladin, the demand for Rod’s expertise grew. Moving on from the wine store, Rod established his first wholesale business, Caspian Caviar, in 1984. From his Camden location, he continued to source and ship seafood and caviar to his growing customer base of fine young chefs throughout America.
Browne Trading Co. is Founded
In 1991 Rod established Browne Trading Company with headquarters on the working waterfront in Portland, Maine. From here he was able to expand his sourcing to procure products from ports around the world. He also pioneered overnight shipping of the highest quality seafood to chefs and home gourmands around the United States.
His relationships and sources of international caviars began to bring Browne Trading to the forefront of the caviar industry. Rod’s understanding of the best methods to care for and deliver seafood from the moment of harvest to the kitchen has single-handedly raised the bar in the fine dining seafood industry.
Soon he was called upon to provide the source of spectacular products and photographs to complement the next expression of a great chef’s talent: the cookbook. Working with his good friend Jean Louis in the production of Jean Louis Cooking with the Seasons was an unforgettable experience. Both locations and harvesters around Maine were brought to life as never before under the talented eye of photographer Fred Maroon.
Rod’s rising star clients celebrated the products they were receiving from Maine and many included references to Rod and Browne Trading as a key source for their seafood dishes’ success. Many featured profiles on Rod in their editorial and featured our prepared seafood in their photography. These books were invaluable in establishing the company’s notoriety as the best place to purchase seafood and caviar in the United States. Notable mentions include: Jean-Louis Palladin’s Cooking with the Seasons (1989), Charlie Trotter’s Seafood (1997), Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin Cookbook (1998) & On the Line (2008), Alain Ducasse’s Harvesting Excellence (2000), Dave Pasternack’s Young Man & the Sea (2007), and several of Daniel Boulud’s many cookbooks, beginning with Cooking with Daniel Boulud (1993).
A Speaker and an Authority
A speaker in such venues as the French Culinary Institute, the New York Wine Experience, and many product seminars in chefs’ kitchens, Rod and Browne Trading Company have come to symbolize dedication to excellence and leadership in the seafood industry. Having successfully built Browne Trading Company into a multimillion-dollar business, Rod is also called upon to speak to educational groups and to be a resource for local entrepreneurs in many fields. Rod is a frequent guest on televised cooking programs where his knowledge of ingredients compliments a chef’s talent in creating consumer understanding, interest and excitement in culinary excellence.
Rod’s passion for quality and pleasure in sharing the knowledge of ingredients has led not only to long term relationships with many of the most talented chefs around the nation but also to a commitment to promoting education and acknowledgment of culinary excellence. Browne Trading Company has sponsored many events at the James Beard Foundation and continues to be called upon by chefs wanting the best quality ingredients for special events. In partnership with the Jean Louis Palladin Foundation, Browne Trading Company is one of the first sponsors of the Internship Program hosting young chefs from around the country for an intensive education in seafood procurement, quality and preparation. Browne Trading Company also sponsors long term internship opportunities to culinary students in their local community.
The Present Day
Rod, after all those decades in the seafood industry, still has the same passion and drive as he did when he first started out in Camden, Maine. It is Rod’s obsession with quality that spurs him on day after day. He can often be found in our Caviar Room examining the latest batches of product or in the cooler studying the latest seafood that has been delivered. Rod ensures Browne only buys the best seafood both locally in Maine and around the world. Then he ensures we only send the very best of that to your kitchen.
Check out our video below of Rod Browne Mitchell explaining the story of our pristine quality caviar.