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Oyster MasterClass, BC Seafood Festival 2024

Oyster Rockefeller MasterClass

This weekend we were at the BC Seafood Festival, hosted at the Alpine Resort on Mount Washtington.

This was a three day affair where guests could sign up for seafood themed meals and workshops, eating and learning from a handful of BC’s most acclaimed Chefs.

If you have ever been to the festival, you know that although it covers all OceanWise seafood, a large focus does fall on oysters. Majority of which are offered up shucked and raw. Therefore we were highly interested in signing up for the Oyster Rockefeller MasterClass, where we learned how to prepare oysters cooked. Learning more about this historic dish from the biggest names in all things oyster in BC.

Presented by BC Shellfish Growers Association, Sponsored by Effingham Oyster, and presented by Chef Tommy Shorthouse, the executive Chef of Fanny Bay Oyster Bar & Shellfish Market.

The venue changed last minute from within the Alpine Chalet to one of the outdoor tents, ironically in time for a short-lived downpour. The move was a necessity given the need to cook the oysters on the grill. Event show runners were short on the propane torches needed for each participant to cook their own oysters; so with quick thinking they found this solution. Although it meant that the promised complimentary glass of chilled white wine on arrival was forfeited due to the outdoor alcohol licensing and zoning.

The rush to set up and the scramble to get everyone’s oysters cooking also resulted in less that what we came in for. The event advertised 6 local raw oysters and 3 Cooked Oyster Rockefeller for each guest. Although we had 4 of the latter and technically as many as we wanted of the former, with no instruction otherwise. However, many like myself didn’t want to be too forward and had no more than 3 raw.

Although this is just as well, as after the 4 cooked Rockefellers I was all oyster-ed out. These were Effingham Oysters and larger than most. Guests had the option to pick and choose their sizes. I was greedy and paid for it the hard way, finding the 2-3 biters hard to get down in one slurp. A less than appetizing mouth feel that stuck, and had me only going for the smallest oysters after that.

But I digress. The class began with a history lesson. We heard from Shucker Patty, famous in the oyster scene as the Genesis World Record holder for the most oysters shucked in one minute. This record stands at 39 oysters. And to his credit Patrick McMurray BPHE now has his own line of oyster shucking accoutrements including shucker tool and tray thanks to his achievement.

The origins of the Oyster Rockefeller is traced back to Antoine’s in New Orleans, as the restaurant’s super secret family recipe. Since its creation everyone has come up with their own rendition. Typically centred around some sort of green like either arugula, watercress, spinach, or fennel. This is believed to be flavoured with liquorice notes, and heavy handed on the butter and Parmesan cheese.

Today at each work station there was a plate of 4 raw oysters, a premixed spread, and garlic butter. For our topping it was blend of spinach for our greens, celery for body and substance, and plenty of butter for flavour. We had to mix it all together and spread generously overtop of each oyster. Then one by one we lined up to have our oysters laid out on the grill by Tommy, to cook and allow the compound butter to melt.

I was impressed that he was able to keep track of whose oysters were whose, and come time, served them back to us.

For the event as a whole, there wasn’t much to do outside of eat and listen. Sadly, I felt the originally intended class would have been a more fulsome experience. However, they did what they had to and at least the Oyster Rockefellers came out tasty.

For more on this year’s BC Seafood Festival and how to attend next year’s celebration, visit the link below.


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