Roger Berkowitz, president and CEO of Legal Sea Foods, has been working at his family's business since he was 10 years old. He remembers standing on a crate to sell fish over the counter at the original Legal Sea Foods fish market in Cambridge's Inman Square.
In the 1980s, he experimented in the kitchen, whipping up new recipes that are still on the menu 40 years later, including the garlic-sherry crab legs, clam chowder and the dish he misses serving the most, the Jasmine Special (originally called the Roger Special). He breaks down the shrimp, broccoli and Monterey Jack recipe, and how he came up with it, in the show:
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The original restaurant location burned down in 1980, but that didn't stop Legal Sea Foods from thriving. The company now has over 30 locations in five states, plus Washington, D.C. But when governors everywhere ordered restaurants to shut down, it forced all Legal locations to close their doors temporarily.
"No one really knew at that point how COVID-19 was spread and so we erred on the side of caution," Berkowitz said. "Essentially, we went [from] operating restaurants to not operating restaurants, it was as stark as that."
In addition to closing all locations and furloughing 3,100 employees, Legal has filed a lawsuit in federal court against Strathmore Insurance Company, claiming the restaurants were completely covered for the pandemic shutdown but the company wouldn't pay the damages. A representative for Strathmore said the company doesn't comment on pending litigation.
When asked about the future of Legal Sea Foods, Berkowitz said they are figuring out new ways to conduct business, including focusing efforts an e-commerce approach, where they can deliver seasoned fish locally and nationally.
"We see ourselves we're in the fish business and people are going to eat fish and we just have to figure out what's the best avenue for them to have delicious New England or other seafood products that we offer."
For the Jasmine Special recipe and to learn more about how coronavirus affected Legal Sea Foods, listen here: