SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) – A Sarasota fisherman is nearing the end of an era.
For 43 years, George Nodaros has been a champion of old-school cooking, spending countless Saturday mornings whipping up mullet for eager customers. His method is an old-fashioned style rarely seen around modern Sarasota.
Using a massive smoker he bought more than 30 years ago, the fisherman smokes his freshly caught mullet for hours on Saturday mornings, starting at dawn. The recipe is simple consisting of salt, pepper, paprika and patience.
It’s hard work, but for the Nodaros, it’s rewarding enough to keep coming back year after year.
“It’s something I like,” he said. “It’s work like anything else. You get nothing for nothing, but I just enjoy it.”
For decades, his passion has paid off. Every Saturday between July and December, he starts selling his fish outside his house where he prepares them, and every Saturday loyal customers come back to buy every piece.
Some of them have been going to lunch for decades. John Esola, a fisherman himself, said the fish his friend cooks are a special reminder of the past.
“If you want mullet, the best smoked mullet in town,” Esola said. “It’s old school.”
Nodaros said few, if any, fishermen smoke mullet the way he does. It was common at the time, but over the years the craft has faded.
“They just don’t take the time and energy to put into the process to do it right,” he said.
It’s a lot of work. Mullet, Nodaros explained, should be smoked for at least four hours until the fish is tender and juicy without being overcooked.
He has spent countless hours standing in front of his massive devices, feeling the billows of smoke blow into his eyes as he opens the lid. However, this hard work pays off as customers repeatedly line up for a bite.
“Forty-three years they don’t stop,” Nodaros said. “They come every week from July to December.”
Our crews saw the excitement firsthand watching car after car pull up as we spoke to the Nodaros, each driver walking away with cash in hand and a smile on their face.
However, fans of his cooking are preparing for a change. Soon Nodaros said he will quit smoking for the last time, saying that his age is closing in on him making it too difficult to continue much longer.
He expects this year or next to be his last season.
All good things must come to an end, but he said it won’t be easy to leave after dedicating so much of his life to his work.
“It would destroy me because I feel like I’m letting my customers down and I never want to do that. They are all good people. I just love them to death.”
There’s even hope for mullet lovers in Sarasota. Nodaros said he is talking to some of the younger members of his family who can take up his mantle by learning to cook fish the same way he always did and take over the tried and true business.
He wants to remove the shoulder, but has a piece of advice for anyone who wants to continue his legacy.
“You’re not going to get rich on this,” he said. “It’s just the pleasure of making others happy. This is what I like. This is.”
Nodaros serves its smoked barbul every Saturday morning between July and December. The fish is prepared in front of his home, which is located at 3020 40th Street in Sarasota.
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