by Claire Cella
Photography by Dustin Meyer
When you think of fresh seafood, cities such as New Orleans, Seattle and Boston probably come to mind, yet poor landlocked and drought-prone Austin typically doesn’t. Scott and Kim Treaster—the husband and wife team behind K&S Seafood—are trying very hard to change that, ice chest by ice chest, market by market, weekend by weekend.
It appears that locals have taken the bait. The Treasters offer up freshly procured, sped-to-market gulf fish at Austin-area farmers markets, and many customers have even begun calling or texting in advance to reserve their own catch on market days. In fact, preorders have almost become a necessity: strolling up to the K&S booth after noon on a Sunday ensures disappointment and a whiteboard laundry list of delicacies—such as shrimp, oysters, crab claws, lump crabmeat, amberjack, black drum, flounder, mahi mahi, Spanish mackerel, snapper and tuna—struck through with black lines.
And it’s like that every weekend. Scott says his now-bustling business started in 2008 as two modest roadside bait stands, in both Georgetown and Wimberley, equipped with tables, a few A-frame signs and some coolers packed full of ice and fresh gulf seafood. But one weekend, Kim asked her husband for a few extra pounds of shrimp for coworkers at the brokerage firm where she works. This one delivery led to recurring requests for more. “Their enthusiasm really planted the seed for us to think: Hey, this isn't such a bad idea. We can do this every week!” says Scott. “I had one lady tell me: ‘You know, I'd go to the coast myself, but it's a lot cheaper and easier for me to just get [shrimp] from you now!’”
Scott and Kim quickly realized the demand they could fill by broadening their customer base and bringing seafood to the city straight from the source. They set up a market booth at the Cedar Park Farmers Market and the results were immediate and intense. “I remember, one of the last times I sold on the side of the road in Wimberley was a Friday,” says Scott. “The next day, Kim had started selling, just for the second time, at the market and I was actually on my way out to Wimberley to sell. But she called me and said ‘I'm already sold out!’ It had only been an hour into the market! So I quickly turned around and brought my stock to her and sold everything. It would have taken me all day at the stand to sell that, if even.”
Now, every Thursday at dawn, Scott drives to the Gulf where he personally inspects and selects freshly caught gulf fish from the bows of trusted fishermen’s boats. “I’m there, handling it, looking at it, and thus able to control the quality,” he says. “If I’m looking at it and I wouldn’t eat it, it won’t go to market.” And the Treasters certainly know a good fish when they see one; Scott’s childhood was spent casting lines up and down the coastline, from Seadrift to Port Arthur, and Kim was raised fishing with her parents and grandparents in Maui, Hawaii. In fact, freshness and quality are such important facets of the K&S business model that Scott says they’ll never save and sell anything left over from a market. “Fresh is fresh,” he says. “Fresh isn’t a week old. If it’s left over, I’m eating it,” he says with a chuckle.
The Treasters take full advantage of the diverse Texas Gulf Coast ecosystem—but they also support the Texas Parks and Wildlife’s efforts to protect fish populations by keeping a watchful eye on overfishing trends. And while the vast bulk of their business depends on the seafood that lives naturally in the bays and offshore waters of the Texas Gulf, Scott and Kim occasionally fly in overnight deliveries of more exotic catches that aren’t always available locally—salmon and halibut from Alaska, for instance, and most recently trout from Idaho.
Scott is quick to say he feels fortunate to have been able to abandon the grind of his former construction business to pursue the work he loves. And Kim plays an integral role in the business, too—she manages their stand at the Barton Creek Farmers Market on Saturday mornings and keeps things running smoothly when Scott goes to the coast each week. “My office could be in a building from nine to five, but no,” says Scott with a wry smile. “With my job, I’m looking at the water. It’s a lot of work, but it’s over on Sunday afternoon, [then] I’m going to go home and cook snapper and Spanish mackerel! This is work that doesn’t feel like work.”
The Treasters say that 70- to 75-percent of their customers are repeat customers, and that this year they’re up 30- to 35-percent in sales over last. "I serve their tuna raw in the middle,” says frequent buyer, Marfa resident and Marfa Table supper club chef/owner, Bridget Weiss. “I'll buy a loin or a half a loin—a big chunk—and I get a grill or a skillet really hot and place the tuna down on that, rotate it and get a little bit of color on each side, let it sit, slice it so that it's cold in the center. My favorite way to dress it is by blending mild chili pasillas, freshly harvested coriander seed, local garlic, lemon zest and unsalted butter into a paste and coating the fish. But honestly, sometimes when I get home, the first thing I do is just cut off a slice, add some salt and just eat it. It's that good."
"I’m from the East Coast, originally, so I'm used to buying fish and crabs straight off the back of trucks,” says Evie Hiatt, another regular customer. “[Scott and Kim’s] stuff tastes just like that. I just bought their scallops recently with a recipe in mind for the grill, but when I got them home and saw how big, beautiful and fresh they were, I decided to just slice them, add a bit of lemon and olive oil drizzle and some fresh herbs and served them as a cold appetizer. I think fish is best left plain; you shouldn't over-complicate it. Great things should be left simple."
Glowing praises aside, the couple looks forward to introducing the next big idea for expansion—providing small, prepared food items at their market stands, such as ceviche, cocktail sauce and boiled shrimp. Whatever the future holds, rest assured their customers will be onboard—hook, line and sinker.
Find K&S Seafood every Saturday at the Cedar Park Farmers Market and the Barton Creek Farmers Market, as well as the Mueller Farmers’ Market on Sundays.