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From the bottom to the bun

In many local restaurants, the grouper sandwich is one of the signature meals. But before it lands between the two halves of your bun, it has to be pulled up, then transported, processed and, finally, prepared.

From the Gulf

Steve Maisel, left, of Palm Harbor and Jeff Busch of Dunedin make about 25 trips a year, sometimes for four days at time, and haul in an average of 2,500 pounds of grouper a trip.

Unloading "The Scorcher," Maisel and Busch separate their catch of red grouper, black grouper and carborito grouper (a.k.a. "carbo" or true black grouper) before selling their bounty to Frenchy's Seafood Company.

Fish gutters John Messacar, right, of Largo and Keith Evans of Clearwater Beach process a pile of grouper at Frenchy's Seafood Company, putting the fresh fish in 40-pounds bags for transport to several restaurants.

To the Cook

On a daily delivery, Messacar, center, hands a bag of grouper fillets to Rob McClinchy of Clearwater at one of Frenchy's four restaurants.

Grouper fillets are sized for preparation in sandwiches and stuffed grouper entrees at Frenchy's Rockaway Grill in Clearwater.

McClinchy dips a fillet in beer batter as final preparation begins to turn the fillet into a grouper sandwich for a hungry customer.

Stick a toothpick in it, it's done. McClinchy holds the grouper sandwich stack in place for the final leg of the grouper's journey.

Lunch customer Michael Thompson of Clearwater Beach receives his grouper sandwich while visiting Frenchy's Rockaway Grill in Clearwater.

To the Consumer