(July 8) LOS ANGELES — It’s before 6 on a June morning, and Dean Simon is hitting the Los Angeles terminal market with a rather unusual goal.

He’s there — besides his normal reason of walking the market to find what’s new — to track down the ugliest fruits and vegetables available. Representatives of a television show called “Fear Factor” have asked Simon to find the scariest-looking product around for a reception.

And Simon, president of Pro*Act Specialties, has a shopping list in mind. He’s thinking wooden mushrooms, cherimoya, kohlrabi and lychees. Then there are fresh water chestnuts, which look like, to put it kindly, fresh road apples, and durian, which smells like it.

It’s not your everyday order, but Simon and Pro*Act Specialties vice president Gwen Kvavli Gulliksen have found that going that extra step and providing interactive experiences for chefs and foodservice buyers is paying off.

The 2-year-old company, which introduced its Harvest Sensations label last year, has revamped its newsletter for chefs and started taking credit card orders over the Internet to make it easier for clients to get information and products.

“The newsletter is a fantastic tool both for marketing and information,” Simon said. “We must get 20 calls a day based on it.”

Those interested can subscribe to the newsletter online at www.harvestsensations.com. It highlights what product is available each month and what product is at its peak. It also gives chefs ideas on what they can use the products for. The e-mail newsletter includes color pictures of the product as well as pricing.

Simon and Gulliksen are chefs, which gives them a leg up when it comes to knowing what their customers want. They try different ways of preparing and displaying the products they bring in, and the Web site offers numerous recipe ideas from Gulliksen. The Web site also has an interactive section for chefs’ questions and suggestions.

In addition, the site features menu suggestions from chefs.

Simon said the Web site’s ordering option is becoming more popular. Chefs and the occasional consumer have ordered through it to get product that is hard to track down in some areas. Shipping is by Federal Express.

In fact, Pro*Act Specialties has entered into a strategic partnership with a gourmet foods distributor to offer its customers gourmet dry goods to top off any order of specialty produce.

Pro*Act Specialties continues to do its own packing of herbs and other items, and Simon said he finds many ways to make it easier for chefs to add color to their presentations. The company stocks a range of colored peppers, potatoes and other products and then repacks them into boxes that contain the rainbow of colors.

“This allows the chef to buy one case and have all the colors they want rather than having to buy three or four and then mixing themselves and hoping they can use all of it while it’s still fresh,” Simon said. “We’re chefs, so we understand their problems and try to come up with solutions.”