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Pastry chefs’ secret: Fish tubs

Fish tubs from wholesalers: flat, easy to stack and ideal for storing and transferring cookies and other kinds of pastry. (Deb Lindsey/For The Washington Post)

 By Bonnie S. BenwickDecember 2, 2014Email the author

The creativity of the pastry chefs I know is something I’ll never be able to match, but now I stash and carry my baked goods just like they do. In fish tubs.

Restaurants typically receive their daily seafood shipments in lidded, reusable, food-grade plastic containers. They are lightweight and dishwasher-safe and clock in at a stackable 9-by-13-by-2 inches, which makes them the right size for transporting sides of salmon and multiple fish fillets. It also makes them perfect for storing cookies, especially delicate or decorated ones that don’t take kindly to being layered between sheets of wax paper. So pastry chefs snap them up.

Bastille co-owner and pastry chef Michelle Poteaux remembers first repurposing the fish tubs when she worked at the Watergate restaurant a decade ago. Now she and her husband, Bastille co-owner and chef Christophe Poteaux, figure they have 50 or 60 of them in use, not including the ones she keeps in the garage at home.

“They are awesome, foodwise and non-foodwise,” she says. “I use them for freezing big cake layers, for storing nuts. We have a dedicated one just for spices. We keep working knives and utensils in them. Next to all of our cooking equipment, those boxes are the most favored thing in our kitchen at Bastille.”

The fish tubs “can turn any tight space into organized storage” in a restaurant kitchen, says Osteria Morini executive pastry chef Alex Levin. “In particular, I use them to store all chocolate products, shelf-stable ingredients and mise [en place] for daily foccacia production.”

In light of the fish tubs’ desirability, I contacted a few local fish wholesalers to see about buying the containers directly. The office manager at Congressional Seafood in Jessup, Md., was well aware.

“I bring seafood home in them, sure. I happen to know that low-walled fish tub holds a lot of chocolate-covered pretzel rods,” said Jamie Swanson, who hosts the annual bake sale at her kids’ school. Congressional honors requests for the containers from their wholesale customers only. But Swanson did give me the name of the manufacturer, who ships with a 30-piece minimum order — and no fishy smells to get rid of.

Who’s in?


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