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Here at Food Republic we’re taking a, shall we say, laid-back look at the California lifestyle with the help of our sponsor Hangar 1 Vodka. This series, #Influencers, dives into conversations with people who embody the California lifestyle– that is to say a life that is filled with passion, chilling, freedom, creativity and enjoyment. These are likely best read with Hangar 1 cocktail in hand – may we suggest a cocktail recipe from our Grilling It Up Series?

Meet Joe Conte. For over 25 years, the San Francisco native and avid fisherman has worked at restaurants. With Water2Table, he’s channeling all those years of expertise to bring fish straight from the water to restaurant tables.

Your company creatively reflects the ideals of sustainability and freshness. How did you dream up the concept of Water2Table, and what do you hope to accomplish?

The business was born out of my connections from 26 years in the restaurant business with chefs, my connections with fishermen from being a recreational fisherman my whole life and from meeting fishermen in various fishing clubs and fishery-related political organizations. Most chefs would love to buy directly from fishermen, and most fishermen would love to sell directly to chefs, but it is just not logistically practical. Water2Table Fish Company bridges that gap, and it has just taken off. I would also like to make some of our bounty in California available to top chefs across the country.

How do you think your work at Water2Table embodies the California lifestyle?

It’s a seafood business that includes buying directly from California fishermen. The business model can only happen in a coastal community; it would not feel natural for me to run a seafood business in an inland location. If I lived there, I would probably be drawn to selling wild game meats, poultry and beef.

What are your favorite ways to chill when you’re in “down time” mode?

Andi, my wife, and I have two boys, ages four and eight. We just moved from South of Market to North Beach so most of our downtime is spent hanging out in our new neighborhood. With a new business, vacations have been non-existent, so we’ve had to settle on day trips and overnighters to Napa.

What are your favorite California pastimes/activities?

I have not had time to do much of this lately, but as I look back at some of my favorite moments it involved fishing along the Marin coast with my wife and hunting with my Dad.

What are your favorite out-of-the-way destinations to hit in California?

Highway 1 is always a favorite, whether it is a trip south to Santa Cruz or Monterey, or up north towards Tomales. They include stops at small beach towns that are unique to our West Coast locale.

What inspires you to make California your home?

It is the location my parents settled in when they came from Italy in the 1950s, and I am so glad they kept going west when they arrived in New York. When you’re young you take the location for granted. The appreciation for what California offers continues to grow as you get older.

You’re a California entrepreneur. Which words come immediately to mind to describe that hybrid?

Cutting-edge, innovation, leadership, sophistication.

Are you a Hangar 1 Vodka fan?

Yes, I am. I always gravitate towards local, small-batch, hand-crafted products.

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