Captain Jim first went to sea when he was only sixteen. Although he may have fudged about his age when signing on to the North Star, he says,” Well, matey, I don’t call it lying exactly. I like to refer to such things as truth enhancement!”
About Captain Jim
Many years ago, back in the days of black & white television, Captain Jim, or Li’l Jimmy as he was called, shipped out of Manitowoc, Wisconsin, with a load of cheese bound for the east coast. The ship’s route was to stop along the way at Detroit, Cleveland, and Buffalo then down the Saint Lawrence Seaway to stop in all the states from Maine to Florida to the east coast of Texas. The journey was to take two months. The plan was to supply all those ports with delicious Wisconsin cheese and then head back to Wisconsin.
That was the original plan, but it didn’t quite turn out that way. The North Star was an old rusty bucket with lots of mechanical problems. She first broke down in Lake Erie just offshore from Sandusky, Ohio. Little Jim passed the time catching large quantities of yellow perch, catfish, and walleye. The fish were so numerous and the crew so eager that they had a fish fry every night. Jim learned the best, most flavorful ways to prepare those fish.
The next breakdown was conveniently off the shore of Maine where Li’l Jimmy naturally took advantage of the opportunity and hauled aboard lobster by the dozen. The crew loved the feast, and Jimmy further sharpened his skills as a master seafood chef.
And so it went all along the American coast line. In New York harbor Jimmy learned to prepare the best clam chowder; in Maryland, blue crab; in Virginia, cured honey-glazed ham. In the Carolinas he discovered Calabash shrimp and fried chicken done to perfection. In Florida, he learned to make grouper taste like… well, like great fish should taste. And red snapper, yellow tuna, and conch chowder turned out to be tasteful masterpieces with his preparation methods. The Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi coasts brought more shrimp and oysters ideas.
Louisiana was a treasure trove of great fish and seafood dishes. He perfected his Cajun-blackened fish quite by accident. A sudden squall came up while Jimmy was in the middle of preparing a highly seasoned fillet of Gulf redfish. He left the fish in the pan while running to put on his life jacket. The storm passed quickly, and when the fish was taken from the pan, it had, well, blackened. With no other meal available, the crew was forced to eat that fish and to everyone’s surprise, it was delicious! That became a staple until the ship neared Texas.
Somewhere just off shore from Corpus Christi, one of the crew hooked into a monster swordfish and after almost an hour successfully landed the big fish on deck. While the fisherman and the rest of the crew argued over whether to eat the fish or have it mounted, Li’l Jimmy went ahead and cut thick steaks and began prepping them over an open fire out on the poop deck. They turned out to be so incredibly delicious that even those who had argued for mounting admitted they had been wrong — very wrong.
After several seasons as first simply a deck hand then as kitchen help and finally as ship’s cook, Li’l Jimmy Boy stashed away a tidy sum and eventually was able to make a down payment on a boat of his own- the Suzanna B.
Jim’s first trip was to be a daring one–straight across the Atlantic to the Mediterranean Sea where he planned to sail all around the sea coast catching, preparing, and selling his delicious seafood dinners. The trip across was uneventful except for the two or three days he spent pulling in blue fin tuna which the now Cap’n Jim prepared in a number of delicious ways, much to the delight of his crew.
After entering the Med, the first port of call proved to be life changing. It was Monte Carlo and Jim got his baptism by fire into the game of hold’em poker. In only a few hours, he had lost his cargo of tuna as well as the Suzanna B! Now almost penniless and far from home, Jim took a job at one of Monte Carlo’s most exclusive Seafood Restaurants, Chez Pisces. As a janitor! One night the sous chef failed to show and the high-strung, slightly neurotic chef, Pierre LePercher, asked Jim if he would “Aider dans les cuisine et élever l’étage pur?” which means help in the kitchen and keep the floor clean. However, Cap’n Jim didn’t speak French and thought the chef was asking him to help prepare food. The night got very busy and in spite of LePecher’s yelling and frantic cursing in French, Italian, Greek and even Albanian, Jim did prepare several dishes which brought compliments from the customers.
Naturally, LePercher took all the credit for several days until, one night the sous chef showed up and watched Jim at work. He approached Jim and suggested that he take a job as chef at a rival restaurant, Les Fruits de Mer. Captain Jim did, but after only a few weeks was fired for displaying what the management called “Trop de très créatrice et trop de très tenir à les la clientcle!” – too much creativity and too much care for the customers.
It didn’t matter to Captain Jim. No sir! He had enough money now to return to America and do what he had wanted to do for years – open his own seafood buffet! He knew a top-of-the-line seafood restaurant employing a real chef would be just what discriminating diners wanted. He also wanted a place where his customers would be treated as if they were guests in his own home.
Pigeon Forge Tennessee was the perfect place and that’s exactly what he did. And here it is– Captain Jim’s Seafood Buffet! Enjoy the finest seafood this side of Chez Pisces! You will be pleased!