Sunday, May 26th, 2019

Black Pelican Seafood Company Story


BLACK PELICAN SEAFOOD COMPANY

Executive Chef shares the perfect recipe for success

by Rick Spencer


Jason and  Crystal Smith

Jason and Crystal Smith

Jason Smith, Executive Chef of The Black Pelican in Chesapeake, believes that he has the perfect recipe for a successful seafood restaurant. “One heaping portion of excellent customer service; dozens of delicious seafood choices, and 25 years of experience as a professional chef,” he says with a smile.

“When it comes to that first ingredient, the staff at the Black Pelican takes pride in offering excellent customer service to our patrons,” the chef continues with pride. “That’s one of the reasons that so many of our customers come here three to five days per week. They’ve made the Black Pelican their second dining room. Due to our customers’ requests, we now offer full-service catering, Sunday brunch and delivery to local businesses. We enjoy providing our customers with special amenities. Some want to know when favorites such as wahoo, soft-shell crabs or rockfish are available, so we will call and let them know when their favorite seasonal items appear on the menu. Our team loves giving our customers that personal touch. Recently, a customer called to make a special request for Beef Wellington, and we made it for her. For our customers, it’s almost like having a personal chef. Adding that personal touch is one of the things I enjoy most about what we do here. Stuff like that is fun!”

The Chesapeake native also finds  fun in determining the second ingredient in his recipe for a successful seafood restaurant: delicious food choices. On this particular afternoon, following The Black Pelican’s lunch rush, he has settled into a booth to work on a new bill of fare for health-conscious customers.

“I’m creating a menu that features superfoods such as salmon, beets, avocados, Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, and other leafy greens,” he explains excitedly. “Just because these are healthy super foods doesn’t mean that we’re going to sacrifice great taste. At the Black Pelican, healthy superfoods are synonymous with delicious!”



The Black Pelican’s delicious food, experienced chefs and excellent service are the ingredients for an outstanding dinning experience.

The Black Pelican’s delicious food, experienced chefs and excellent service are the ingredients for an outstanding dinning experience.


Affordable blue-plate specials, available Monday through Friday and featuring such favorites as fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and collards, are also synonymous with delicious. Other seafood items on the menu—beloved for years by the Black Pelican’s devoted clientele—include fish tacos, seafood risotto, baked shrimp and crab topped with butter wine sauce, and shrimp and grits. All dishes at the Black Pelican are made from scratch, and the seafood is always fresh.

Because freshness is so important, Jason is an ardent advocate of sustainable seafood. This practice advances the long-term viability of seafood based on the sensible way they are caught or farmed.

“The process sustains the well-being of the oceans as well as fishery-dependent communities,” he points out. “There are restrictions on all types of fishing—as there should be. We have to protect the oceans and be careful not to overfish. Ocean preservation is a big concern of mine, so I also support farm-raised seafood. Some people frown on that, but farm-raised seafood is healthy and delicious, and people should be thankful that it’s there to help fulfill consumer demands. We have already done so much harm to the ocean as far as overfishing goes. As a seafood restaurant owner, the sustainability of this portion of the food chain is really important to me.”


“Due to our customers’ requests,
we now offer full-service catering,
Sunday brunch
and delivery to local businesses.”

—Jason Smith


Also important to Jason is the third ingredient in his recipe for a successful restaurant: an experienced chef—or, as is the case with the Black Pelican—an experienced chef who loves training others in his art.

“We make it a practice of hiring really good people,” the Chesapeake native observes. “We have several up-and-coming chefs working for me who are quickly making names for themselves.”

Jason also expands his talent pool of chefs by partnering with Greg Ambrose, the Culinary Institute of Virginia’s Director of Career Services, and hiring aspiring graduates.


Rock fish is but one of the delicious seasonal dishes <BR>that adorn  The Black Pelican’s extensive menu of fresh seafood offerings.

Rock fish is but one of the delicious seasonal dishes
that adorn The Black Pelican’s extensive menu of fresh seafood offerings.

“I enjoy training and teaching inexperienced chefs,” Jason declares. “They work out so well because they don’t have any bad habits to unlearn. They’re excited that they have the opportunity and so they’re open to new ideas and learning how we do things here. Having a team spirit is very important for all of us here at the Black Pelican—we have no time for inflated egos—and these aspiring chefs are more than happy to help out in the kitchen any way they’re needed. They might move from washing dishes to be trained on the fry station. From there, they move up the ranks. It’s a good feeling to know that we can offer our employees upward mobility.”

“Recently, I got a call from a Coast Guard cook who had trained here,” Jason reveals. “He made our shrimp and grits recipe for the base commander—who raved about the dish, saying that he ‘loved it!’ Subsequently, because of that, this cook was given a promotion and is now writing menus for the Coast Guard! This protégé expects to get a promotion by the end of the year. It’s very fulfilling to see the chefs I worked with go on and have successful careers. Helping train the next generation of chefs is one of my favorite things, for sure,” the chef says with a proud smile.

Another of Jason’s favorite things is working with his family. His mother works in the restaurant, while wife, Crystal, is its general manager. “She handles the front of the house where she greets customers and makes them feel welcome,” Jason explains. “Crystal also manages the banquet rooms and catering aspects of the business. Before we opened the restaurant in the Greenbrier area of Chesapeake four years ago, we lived in southern Currituck County for 14 years, much of the time working at the Black Pelican in Kitty Hawk.”

“Being able to work with my family every day is very fulfilling,” Jason concludes. “In fact, that familial spirit extends to everyone who works here.”

That familial spirit among Black Pelican employees is contagious. Guests feel it as they walk into the restaurant, are seated at their table and greeted by their server.
One could think of it as the ideal garnish for a perfect recipe.




Black Pelican

1625 Ring Road
Chesapeake, VA 23320

757-424-3171
http://www.blackpelican.com