The Poke Company Reframes Traditional Hawaiian Dish For Florida Fish Lovers
The Poké Company is fast casual food in a build-your-own bowl, balanced with both flavor and texture in every single bite. The concept is basically sushi in a bowl, quick and delicious.
The growing franchise opened in June in the Pointe at Wellington Green. It is run by Alan Cockerham, a Florida native who hails from the Keys. He grew up in his family’s marina business. After studying marine technology, Cockerham worked as an engineer on cruise and cargo ships while traveling the world for a decade before shifting gears. He is now the first franchisee in Florida, aside from two corporate locations in Boca Raton owned by co-founders Seth Shaning and Maximo Cortese.
“I’m very picky with the quality of fish because of where I grew up. There’s no compromise for freshness,” Cockerham said. “I’m third-generation from the Keys. I’m from Islamorada. My whole family is still there. It has all been a very seamless transition, with the handling of fish and seafood. It’s all very second nature to me.”
Poké is a Hawaiian concept.
“Originally, they would take the scraps from less tasty fish, and they’d mix onions, Shoyu sauce, which is the traditional poké sauce, along with a little bit of seaweed. That’s how they’d mask the slightly gamey flavor. That’s how poké was created. It has since been adapted, and the bowl concept was introduced in California. It has become popularized and migrated east,” Cockerham explained.
The Poké Company offers sushi-grade tuna, salmon and steamed shrimp. Fish is locally sourced and remains fresh during the entire transportation process.
The first decision to make is what size bowl and how many proteins you want. “We try to accommodate anyone with allergies, or gluten free, or on the paleo diet. We have a lot of options for that as well,” Cockerham said. “There’s one family that comes in every day. They can’t have soy or gluten, so we give them the unmarinated fish, because our fish is usually pre-marinated, but we have options in the back for anyone with allergies.”
After you decide how many proteins you want, you pick your base — white or brown rice, mixed greens or cauliflower rice. You can mix and match to suit your taste.
“We’re big on tasting before you put it in your bowl. We want you to build the best bowl that you can,” Cockerham said. “We’ll nudge you in the right direction to make sure your flavors are matching up with one another.”
Then it’s time to choose your proteins. Tuna, salmon, spicy tuna and steamed shrimp are traditional poké choices, and tofu and chicken are also available for those who prefer non-fish options. From there, you move on to the mix-ins.
“The proteins get mixed in a separate bowl from the base, which is in a paper bowl. That’s where we create depth of flavor,” Cockerham explained.
Mix-ins include cucumber, sweet onion, jalapeño, edamame, cilantro and hijiki seaweed. They get mixed in a steel bowl with the protein. Then, it’s time to select a sauce.
“This is where we hammer home what we’re really about,” Cockerham said. “The chef and co-founder, Seth Shaning, worked at Nobu for 10 years. He’s classically trained.”
There are three soy-based sauces.
“The first is the company sauce, which is garlic flavored with a bit of a kick. It’s infused. So, the sauce is the base, and we marinate, or infuse, ingredients in them, to create depth of flavor. Everything we do is by hand. It makes a big difference,” Cockerham said.
There’s also the sesame shoyu. It’s a toasted sesame-based soy and is the traditional poké sauce.
“The notes you pick up are a nice sesame oil, fish sauce and coconut water,” Cockerham described. “Meanwhile, the citrus ponzu pairs well with salmon and shrimp with underlying notes of lime.”
After the mix-in sauces, come the toppings — from tempura flakes to crispy onions, wasabi peas to ginger, scallions, avocado and more. There’s an array of topping sauces that follow to bind it all together, such as spicy mayo, eel sauce and avocado lime, which is the most popular.
“We portion everything appropriately so you’re getting a good bite of rice or salad of your base with everything you choose to put on top,” Cockerham said.
The prices are right on point, too. “For the quality of food that we offer, I don’t think there’s anyone who can come close,” he noted.
A small is priced at $7.95, while a regular is $10.95. Chicken bowls start at $5.95. There are a number of drinks to add to your experience, like Japanese bottled sodas and teas, as well as fountain drinks by Stubborn Soda. A selection of craft beers from Cigar City Brewing is also available, as are several wine options.
The Poké Company is sustainability minded, trying to stay away from single-use plastic items as much as possible. All bowls are compostable paper. Lids are Ecoware, which is recycled plastic. The same with the knives, forks and spoons.
For Cockerham, cleanliness is number one. “We have no grease traps, no hoods, no ventilation. Nothing cooking in the back. That’s what’s great about the poké concept. You’re able to keep everything so clean, so fresh,” he said.
For dessert, try the key lime pie ice cream, straight from his aunt’s kitchen.
“My aunt operates out of a commercial kitchen down on Islamorada,” Cockerham said. “We brought on her ice cream, which is just phenomenal.”
The ice cream has been such a hit, it will soon be found at other Poké Company locations. There are currently four locations in all, but there will be eight by the end of the year.
Cockerham, who grew up in the “sport fishing capital of the world,” carefully chose the “equestrian capital of the world” to open up his shop. He plans to get involved with the Winter Equestrian Festival, as well as offer catering services soon, and spread his passion for poké and pairings of flavors to the sea of people in Wellington and beyond.
The Poké Company is located at 10120 W. Forest Hill Blvd. in the Pointe at Wellington Green. It is open every day 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Delivery is available through DoorDash. For more information, call (561) 323-2391 or visit www.eatthepokecompany.com.