Faces Of Nantucket: Ted Jennison

Waverly Brannigan •

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Ted Jennison inside Nantucket Seafoods. Photo by Charity Grace Mofsen

Years on Nantucket: 55, 33 full-time

Favorite things about the island: Surfing, sailing, fishing

Ted Jennison’s journey in the seafood industry began when he was just 15 years old, making him the longest-running fishmonger on Nantucket today. Born in Connecticut, Jennison began spending his summers on Nantucket in 1972. In those early years, he remembers getting picked up by Fred Rogers while hitch-hiking and getting chased off the bridge in Madaket by none other than Madaket Millie herself as he was crabbing with friends.

Decades later, Jennison’s Nantucket Seafoods now supplies most of the island’s restaurants with fresh fish throughout the season, and during the winter he ships bay scallops from Nantucket Harbor all over the country in addition to selling them locally. If you’re eating a seafood dish at any of the island’s fine dining establishments, chances are it came from Jennison’s store on Old South Road.

Drawn to activities on the ocean including surfing, sailing, and fishing, Jennison quickly found a role in the island’s seafood business while he was still a teenager. His first job was at Glidden’s Fish Market in 1976, where he worked for three years and learned much about the industry.

“I started in this business when I was 15 years old, making two bucks an hour at Glidden’s,” he said Wednesday as he filleted salmon, bass, fluke, and bronzini in the back of Nantucket Seafoods off Old South Road.

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Photo by Charity Grace Mofsen

Jennison started Straight Wharf Fish Store with Jock Gifford in 1984 when he was just 21 years old, which attracted attention from culinary legends Julia Child and Marian Morash, who he began working for while also bouncing between Straight Wharf Fish Store and Glidden’s.

“I used to work for Julia Child and Marian Morash, that’s how I got my start way back, 49 years ago,” Jennison says. “Well, lo and behold, I guess I didn't turn back. I've been doing it ever since.”

Besides taking six years off to work in construction with his company Jennison Builders, Jennison has been committed to the seafood industry for decades. He opened Nantucket Seafoods in 1999 with co-owner Dan LeMaitre, creating a business that prioritized having the largest, freshest selection of seafood on the island.

His work and reputation in the industry have caught the attention of high-quality restaurants beyond the island, with Jennison now providing seafood to Michelin-star restaurants including The French Laundry in California, The Surf Club in Florida, Daniel in New York City, and more.

On the island, however, Jennison supplies many of the local Nantucket restaurants with seafood, most of which is shipped to Nantucket from Boston after being caught in Georges Bank and regional waters. During the winter, Jennison is buying bay scallops from members of Nantucket's commercial fleet, some of whom utilize his shanty on Old South Road to open the shellfish. It can be a love-hate relationship with the fisherman, Jennison acknowledged, especially as the wholesale price fluctuates during the season. But he has developed loyal and longstanding relationships over the years with many of Nantucket's commercial scallopers. 

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Photo by Charity Grace Mofsen
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Photo by Charity Grace Mofsen

With Jennison’s connections and knowledge of the industry, he can bring in different types of seafood that island chefs want to cook. He said he constantly seeks out new ways to provide unique and high-quality products to his customers, including his skin-on fluke, which has become a favorite among local chefs for its mix of flavor and crispy texture.

“I try to bring things in and create for the chefs because everybody wants to be a little different,” Jennison explains.

Despite the long hours and other demands of the job, Jennison’s passion for his work remains undiminished even after nearly 50 years. This week alone - usually one of the busiest of the year - Nantucket Seafoods has sold 800 to 1,000 pounds of salmon, 1000 pounds of tuna, and about 800 pounds of swordfish.

“I work 100 hours a week, every day, seven days a week. In the off-season, I work 40-50 hours a week,” he says.

As for why he’s still doing it after almost 50 years, Jennison jokes, “I don’t know. My wife asks me that, everybody asks me that. It’s just the love,” he adds.

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Photo by Charity Grace Mofsen
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Photo by Charity Grace Mofsen
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