12 July 2023

Five minutes with Shawn Wang, Fresco Seafood

| James Day
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The front entrance to Fresco Seafoods with the Franklin carpark in the background.

Fresco Seafood opened in Franklin in 2019 and has established itself as a community staple. Photo: James Day.

Who are you?

My name is Shawn and I am originally from Wuhan. I got my bachelor’s in Digital Art there before moving to New York City and I worked in advertising, which I hated.

From there, I came to Canberra in 2015 and got my Masters at the ANU, but I realised how completely different the career of filmmaking is from what I thought.

I wanted to be the next Baz Luhrmann, but instead, there was only commercial CGI work. The job involved hundreds of people like me who couldn’t exercise what they’d learned and instead had to make boring things on a screen like a tree or a roof.

So instead, I took my creative abilities into hospitality and began a few brands, including Civic’s Super-Emoji and Dickson’s Wukong Hotpot. Last year I got into the business of seafood, which is what I’m here to talk about today.

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A chef cooks lobster in a wok with a flame rising above it.

Here one of their chef’s prepares lobster in a wok. Photo: James Day.

What is Fresco Seafood?

The business was originally in Civic and run by an old Greek couple I never met. We still use their recipes on our menu to this day, but I bought the business from a Taiwanese man named Jerry in 2019 who worked under the original owners and moved it to Franklin.

Now it’s a seafood shop with two areas: the front counter where you can order from our hot food menu, and the raw section with stock we bring in fresh from the Sydney Fish Market.

While there is our standard list of dishes, we also have a secret menu on our WeChat group. We post every day all the fresh fish stock we have and take orders from people in the community on how they’d like it to be prepared.

Please call us if you’d like to join the group, but know that we have over 4000 people in the group, so our stock goes quickly!

tray of lobster noodles

From their secret menu, many customers order the Chinese-inspired dish of Lobster Noodles. Photo: Shawn Wang.

What dish do you make that best sums up what your venue does?

I couldn’t say one individual item covers the secret menu. However, the grilled fish and chips with tartare sauce would make the cut out of our traditional recipes. Although, it’s not really grilled.

We prepare it by opening the whole fish (eg, barramundi or cod) like a butterfly, which you need really skilful knifework to do. Then we put it into the deep frier just until the skin becomes crispy before throwing it in the wok with our special sauce and cooking it for 10 to 15 minutes while the meat absorbs the flavour.

A bamboo tray with a bowl of risotto in the middle.

From the menu of original recipes is a scallop risotto, which like all their dishes can be taken home in a portable container. Photo: James Day.

Who is your biggest culinary influence?

The ex-owner, Jerry, actually. When I took over the restaurant from him, I watched how he served the people in the community and not just his business. He would strike up conversations with people from places like India and Vietnam, asking them what recipes or ingredients they’d like to see in the food.

From there, he’d do the work and pull these dishes together that they’d missed from their home, and it would mean the world to them. I learnt a lot from him and took that mindset through to how we operate the business today.

A live crab being held above a tank of red crabs

The store also offers live seafood from the fish markets. Photo: Shawn Wang.

What do you wish people understood about your job?

Every Monday or Thursday, if everything goes really fast, we get to the Sydney Fish Market at four in the morning to bargain with the other mongers for our supply. These people have been working there for decades and most are now millionaires, which means they’re very hard to compete with.

Yet if done well, there’s potential for you to get really great stuff like a Jumbo Oyster, which can be bigger than your head.

It’s really painful work and demands a lot of you physically and mentally every week.

A fresh seafood section showing a variety of fish and an attendant

Fish is transported in a large refrigerated truck from Sydney every week to fill the stomachs of Fresco Seafood’s hungry customers. Photo: James Day.

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What are your top 3 recipe tips?

I feel like it’s very similar to the work I did in digital art editing. You get the raw materials, chop them up and clean them; before mixing to make a good result.

Although to be this efficient, the one thing you must remember is patience.

Fresco Seafood is located across from the Discount Pharmacy within the Franklin shopping area on the corner of Flemington Road and Nullarbor Avenue. It’s open six days a week from 10 am to 7 pm but closes at 8 pm on Friday and 4 pm on Sunday. It’s closed Mondays. To get on their WeChat group, call them on 6179 8164.

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