Reed Brand has become a digital star with no-frills videos on how to clean and fillet fish. Photos provided
By Jan Norris
Call him the Dexter of seafood.
Like the handy-with-a-blade star of the Showtime TV series, Reed Brand, aka Reed the Fishmonger, has thousands of people watching his knife skills as he goes about his work filleting fish.
One of the sons in the Captain Clay & Sons Seafood Market family, 29-year-old Brand has become an internet sensation of sorts, posting reels and videos on social media, showing how he slides his knife along the side of a fish with the precision of a surgeon.
On some, he’ll instruct, telling viewers about the type of fish, how deep it’s caught and its flavor, then explaining his cuts and method. On others, it’s simply showing the work table, the fish and his knife, and has only the sound of the cuts as he works.
In a YouTube video he uses a yellowtail snapper as an example of how to fillet a fish while leaving the skin on. 1 Make a single cut behind the gills through the fleshy part of the fish. 2 With the sharp side of the blade facing away from the body of the fish, make a shallow cut along the backbone. 3 Flip the sharp side of the blade toward the body to slice between the ribs and the meat of the fish in a single movement. 4 Use your thumb to pull the fillet open from the body and make a second slice to remove the fillet.
More than 130,000 people subscribe to his channels and videos on YouTube and Instagram, but he shines on TikTok with 245,000 viewers. Views for his posts combined exceed 12 million.
Brand posts on one or the other daily, recording the videos in the store around 5 a.m. when the fish come into the market fresh off the boats. He then uploads the reels later the same day.
“It blows my mind how many people want to watch fish cleaning,” he said. “I’m humbled and grateful, and excited to show off our brand new market.”
Captain Clay & Sons, currently on Northeast Fourth Street in Delray Beach, is moving to a larger store at 1319 N. Federal Highway, just north of George Bush Boulevard, scheduled to open in December.
A year and a half ago, Brand decided he wanted to post instructional videos and share recipes for the market’s products to promote the new place, so he asked a tech-savvy friend how to get started.
“He told me to go to TikTok. I never even heard of it.”
He started there and as he got more confident, branched out to the others. Now, TikTok is his most popular platform, pulling in a younger audience than most others.
Brand says he has viewers of every age, though most followers are of his generation — those who use social media as second nature.
“Think about it like how to change a tire. You and I know, but for the younger people, they pull out their phone and go to YouTube and search a video,” he said. “It may take them once or twice, but they’ll get it.”
It’s the same with cleaning fish — not many people buy whole fish, so breaking them down is foreign to them. “They go to YouTube and can watch how to clean a snapper.”
Although some do watch for the instruction, he admits others are there “for the ASMR. Do you know what that is?”
We didn’t. It stands for autonomous sensory meridian response, a buzzword in videos.
“It’s relaxing entertainment. People say the sound of the knife sliding along the fish is satisfying. It relaxes them,” Brand said. The viewer will watch over and over for ASMR’s tingling sensation.
Comments on the videos “like slicing through butter” and “sick!” encourage him to do more.
So, he sometimes merely shows the fish, then cuts it slowly, separating the flesh from the skin or bones and filleting or steaking out the fish with no sound except the knife.
He says all the fish shown is used: The scraps go into fish cakes or the store smokes it or makes fish stock to sell to restaurants.
Occasionally he’ll show recipes or other techniques — how to devein a shrimp easily, or the story on stone crab claws, coming to the market now.
The store has its own fishing boat, and Brand recently went out on it for recreation and caught his first swordfish — his favorite fish to fillet. Naturally, he took a video of the trip, and will post it, though he says catching fish is a lost cause on social media.
“There are literally millions of videos of people fishing and catching fish. It’s saturated with those. But there aren’t that many of people cutting and cleaning fish,” Brand said.
He gets plenty of feedback. The No. 1 comment, however, is a question: What kind of knife do you use?
He answers: Just a bunch of fillet knives. He’s had dozens of offers daily trying to get him to promote cutlery and other equipment or foods. But he says he has no interest in marketing affiliation or promotions that make some internet stars serious money.
“I just want to promote my family’s market,” he said. “Let people know what they can find in the store. It’s all locally caught, fresh fish, with every fish cut that day that it comes in.”
Find his videos on Instagram, YouTube and TikTok under Reed_thefishmonger.