Ben Sargent (also known as the Brooklyn Chowder Surfer) is a seafood lover, chef, restaurateur and artist. As the host of Cooking Channel’s Hook, Line & Dinner, Ben takes viewers on a coastal road trip uncovering the secrets and stories of expert fishermen, sharing in their seafood specialties and highlighting the awe-inspiring journey from sea to table.
Ben exploded onto the New York food and media scene in 2010, when he launched the buzzed-about Underground Lobster Pound, a covert operation based out of his Brooklyn apartment where he supplied demanding customers with his famous lobster rolls. The South Boston lobster-dealing thug character he developed was known as “Doktor Klaw” or “The Lobster Pusha Man.” At his peak, Ben sold upwards of 150 lobster rolls in one night.
Growing up in Cambridge, Mass., Ben’s seafood obsession was evident from an early age. He insisted upon eating shrimp for breakfast for a year straight at age four despite his mother’s disapproval. While in a prestigious Boston preschool, Ben was cited for eating live minnows on a class trip. Throughout his childhood, he spent weekends in New England where he enjoyed fishing, crabbing, learning about sea life and developing his love for seafood and surfing. His first real job was scooping ice cream on Cape Cod, where he watched the skilled fishmongers next door with envious eyes.
Ben’s family served as a great inspiration to him. He has fond memories of watching his mother cook and has always regarded the kitchen as a place of comfort; his house was built around the kitchen as that’s where the family gathered and bonded. Ben’s father, an accomplished naturalist writer, taught him early lessons in sea life and ecosystems. His grandfather, who was the Head of the Fisheries in Massachusetts, taught him how to clean and fillet fish, cook chowder and treat the environment with care. Ben attributes his lessons in family values, along with his grilling skills, to his stepfather.
In 2000 Ben graduated from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., with a Bachelor of Science in fine arts with a concentration in sculpture. He worked for several realist artists, which eventually led him to Brooklyn where he also took on various restaurant jobs to pay the bills. In 2001 Ben opened Hurricane Hopeful, a Williamsburg seafood restaurant, which featured his famous chowders and lobster rolls. Ben was hired by City Soup to develop chowder recipes for their retail stores; he made hundreds of gallons at a time wearing a lab coat and mask! His website,www.BrooklynChowderSurfer.com, also launched in 2001 and later led to an online cooking series and a chronicle of his passionate culinary adventures, including traveling with his surfboard and chowder pot. Ben also studied restaurant management at The French Culinary Institute.
Learning firsthand about various cultures and cooking styles has always interested Ben. In Italy and France, Ben continued and broadened his art studies while also appreciating and learning about their cooking, wine and lifestyle. After moving to St. John and Tortola, he learned about the Rastafarian culture and West Indian cooking while teaching surfing lessons, working at a local Chinese restaurant and living and sleeping on a boat. Ben also lived in Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Argentina; all places that opened up his eyes to a new quality of the “pura vida” lifestyle, which he truly admires.
Ben has displayed his food-inspired images throughout New York galleries, including a solo show in July 2008. He founded the Brooklyn Fishing Derby in 2009, a highly attended competition which runs every September. He has also hosted the National Chowder Cook Off in Newport, R.I. And, in 2010, Ben began hosting a weekly radio show called “Catch IT, Cook IT, & Eat IT,” which truly highlights his philosophy on food. Ben has appeared on Food Network’s Throwdown with Bobby Flay and on Cooking Channel’s United Tastes of America. Food Network fans can also look forward to seeing Ben as a competitor on Chopped and a judge on Iron Chef America.
Ben currently lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he fishes for striped bass along the East River. Aside from his love for fishing, Ben is also passionate about surfing (though admittedly is not especially good at it) and manages to surf in New York sometimes up to four days a week. He can also be found playing his ukulele and even doing a bit of songwriting on the side while also trying to keep up with his sculpture and drawing as much as possible. When not in New York or on the road, Ben spends time in Londonderry, Vt., working on his family farm, freshwater fishing and riding his old motorcycle featured in Hook, Line & Dinner.