Justin Manson-Kullin – King of Cool

Justin Manson-Kullin – King of Cool

We have many great people working at Cape Town Fish Market. They’re the unsung heroes of making sure CTFM serves only fresh fish, not frozen, ensuring that the taste and texture is world-class and that you get a great seafood experience. But who are they? How do they approach their work? And why do we think they’re special?

The man we’d like to introduce you to today is someone you’ll probably never meet as a customer, but who plays an integral part in every single delicious bite of fish and seafood you enjoy at a CTFM restaurant, anywhere in the country. His name is Justin Manson-Kullin, and he’s our King of Cool.

His nickname isn’t because he’s particularly trendy or stylish, or because he’s sporting some amazing facial hair (he does have a pretty impressive mustache, though) – it’s because he’s in charge of CTFM’s Central Kitchen, which means he’s in charge of managing something called the ‘cold chain’ – the way of getting fresh fish from the sea to the restaurant as fast as possible, while keeping cold, and thereby keeping it fresh.

‘This is a passion for me,’ said Justin, when we sat down with him at the end of a long, hot day in March. If you think that sounds strange, you haven’t met Justin. He’s always known food would be his life. He signed up for an apprenticeship to become a chef in Grade 9. Not too long afterwards, starting in 1985, he began his 27-year career as a chef (with 17 of them spent as an executive chef). Over the course of that career, he’s graced luxury hotels and restaurants across the country with great cuisine, but, as he’ll be the first to tell you, ‘the hospitality industry is not a job, it’s a lifestyle’. It’s also his lifestyle, and it’s why he brings the same passion he had in an individual restaurant kitchen to CTFM’s central kitchen, where all our restaurants benefit from his knowledge, experience, and incredible attention to detail.

And then of course, there’s seafood. Justin loves it so much, he casually (but perfectly seriously) confesses from across his desk that he could eat it all day. Which is why joining Cape Town Fish Market was a natural fit for him – and an incredible opportunity for us.

But Justin doesn’t just understand how to make sure fresh fish is available in Bloemfontein. As a trained chef, he understands quality, and his expertise in managing the cold chain is one of the reasons we’re able to make sure we serve fresh, high quality fish consistently across all our restaurants. In fact, Justin has looked carefully at every part of the journey our fish takes – including personally inspecting the customs facilities at Cape Town International Airport, where we fly in our Norwegian salmon. He also knows what style of fish to buy (always whole, never portioned), and what to look for in terms of colour and texture – all as part of our mission to serve fresh, delicious fish and seafood.

As both a chef and a foodie, and the one responsible for our fresh fish, we had to ask – what’s his favourite dish on the menu? ‘Prawns. Grilled, fried, you name it. I could eat prawns all day. But also kingklip. With fresh kingklip, there’s nothing better. In fact, any fresh fish.’ What can we say? We agree with Justin.

And this seafood guru’s advice for you, next time you sit down at a CTFM? ‘Well, the critical decision is whether you want fish or shellfish. After that, it’s important to know what you’re eating is sustainable, and then you need to go for the freshest seafood available. And when it comes to taste, there’s no substitute for freshness. No one who enjoys their seafood chooses frozen over fresh.’

As Justin now enters his 11th year with us at CTFM, he’s one of the people that both we, and our franchisees rely on most. If you read our previous profile on Miriam Klaas, our Queen of Sauces who works with Justin at our central kitchen, you’ll remember him saying of her that she’s the kind of person he’d take into battle with him. For her, and everyone else in our central kitchen, he’s a great leader, and an inspirational teacher. And as for the franchise owner who is complimented on their great-tasting fresh seafood? Well, just remember the maestro behind the curtain – our very own King of Cool.