American Seafoods CEO Bernt Bodal Gets in Hot Water on 'Undercover Boss'

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American Seafood CEO Bernt Bodal goes through his transformation for 'Undercover Boss.'
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American Seafood CEO Bernt Bodal goes through his transformation for 'Undercover Boss.'

So how did a Norwegian rocker who didn't go to college but who did play bass with the likes of Sammy Hagar, Roger Daltrey and Steven Tyler, wind up as a CEO on "Undercover Boss"? Hint: He took a boat. Bernt Bodal left his rock and roll glory days behind him in Norway because he felt there was more opportunity in the US. He immigrated to Seattle, got a job on a fishing boat, worked his way up to captain, and eventually became the CEO and majority owner of American Seafood.

With a rolling Norwegian accent, Bodal told me that most of his success comes from not being afraid to "take a lot of risks." That same factor got him involved in "Undercover Boss," and lead to the hot water mentioned in the title. For his episode, he allowed himself to be lowered into a fish pit full of piping hot water in order to clean the tank. "It looks dangerous, but it really isn't," he recalls. Still, he didn't stay in there long.

Most of us have no idea how complicated it is to get those fish filets on our plates, and this week's episode, which airs Friday, Feb. 24 on CBS, is particularly enliglhtening. If you think you know everything about the fishing industry from watching "Deadliest Catch," Bodal points out that there are vast differences. His fishing boats carry around 130 workers, many taking 12-hour shifts.

American Seafood "harvests" Alaska Pollock, Pacific Whiting (hake), Yellowfin Sole and Pacific cod, for products that can be found in more than 11,000 restaurants nationwide, including McDonalds and Long John Silvers. The company produces more than one billion servings of protein annually, which is enough to feed one out of every six people on the planet. And in case you're wondering, a ll four species harvested by American Seafoods have been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council as sustainable.

That requires hundreds of thousands of hours for workers at sea. Bodal's undercover tasks reminded him of how difficult it is for employees to go for days without communication with their families. When he saw how much the workers were suffering, he committed to installing internet access and computer stations on all his ships, and he told me that even before the show airs, he has kept his promise.

We also see Bodal going behind the scenes to process products most of us didn't know existed, like "fishmeal" for example. That consists of extra pieces of fish, heads and guts, that feed the eel aqua culture in southeast Asia. You can just imagine the delightful smell involved in processing that.

Bodal feels fortunate that American Seafood didn't have to layoff one worker during the recession, although profits weren't as high as they had been in the past. During this "Undercover Boss" episode, you'll meet Bodal's daughter Ellen, who works in the company's Human Resources Department, helping to take care of their more than 1,400 employees. Even though Bodal considers himself a "fisherman who became a CEO," he acknowledges he still had a lot to learn, and his "Undercover Boss" experience helped him regain his sea legs.

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