I’ve never thought of myself as being a particularly talented person. Now, you shouldn’t feel too badly for me. I don’t feel slighted in life. Despite my lack of superior athleticism and the fact that I likely won’t ever win a grand Prize- Pulitzer, Nobel or otherwise– I CAN shuck an oyster. In fact, this completely random skill has taken me all over the country. Let me walk you through a basic 36 hours that anyone with the ability to shuck, can achieve.
Friday, 1am – Hop on a bus from Boston to NYC. You are helping shuck at a fundraiser for the Billion Oyster Project – a group that aims to rehabilitate New York Harbor with oyster beds.
5am-7am: Arrive in Times Square and end up taking a TWO HOUR taxi ride to Brooklyn with a crazy taxi driver (a story for another time).
11am- You and Gabrielle, the NYC sales rep, arrive at Eataly, a sleek and bustling Italian market where tourists lose themselves in an orgy of gelato, pastas, wines. It’s time to get the raw bar ready. You meet the chef and staff, fill the raw bar boat with ice, sauces, marketing materials, extra gloves, and then the oysters. You start off with just 400 pieces and start shucking (enter skills) before the crowd arrives.
2pm – The chef has seen you lusting after the plates circling the dining room, so it’s time for a break. He brings you to the brewery where you wolf down a platter of charcuterie and pork belly sandwiches so quickly you can hardly distinguish the prosciutto from the coppa. While you eat, the head brewer cleans the fermenting tanks, scraping residual yeast from the bottom, getting ready for the new batch. You talk about the nuances of boutique beer and oysters. The boys from the Island Creek-New York Shop, Taylor and Trevor arrive to help shuck. You are now a party of 4. By the end of the day, you’ll have shucked over 1,000 oysters.
5:30pm – 6 hours later, it’s the end of our shift. Your group sits down at an empty table for a well-earned drink and bite to eat. Taylor tries balsamic vinegar for the first time – doesn’t like it. Kills the aftertaste with a 5 Hour Energy Shot poured into a craft beer. That (not surprisingly) needs washing down as well, so you raise your glasses of Italian rose and toast to the finer things in life. You are happy in each others company.
8pm – With barely enough time to scrape the bits of shell and dried seaweed from your brow, you get lost on the train – because you are from Boston where they rely on colors and straight lines to get around – en route to your second dinner of the evening at Extra Fancy in Williamsburg. You get rose slushies and are persuaded without much protesting, to try the 9-course tasting menu. 3, 5, you lose count-courses later; you have surrendered to the decadence of caviar-topped oysters, uni-tuna nori tacos, and lamb fat donuts with f*cking grape jelly on top. You finish off the meal with a shot of blanco tequila with your server and the chef, because obviously.
12am – Within two seconds of hitting the pillow, you fall asleep in the company apartment room with “Professionals Only” bumper stickers and business cards still in the pocket of your jeans.
Saturday, 10am – You grab coffee with the chef from Extra Fancy and stroll around Fort Greene and Williamsburg. You talk about things other than oysters.
3:30pm – In the afternoon you will get lost on the train – again – and miss your first bus home. You end up at a different oyster festival being thrown on some side street in Manhattan. Then, you go shopping on Broadway while you wait for your second bus, which you also almost don’t make – again. As the bus pulls out of the stop, your heart still pounding from literally running out of your cab, the lady seated across the aisle tells a joke. She just so happens to have worked at a restaurant in Boston. And of course, knows all about Island Creek Oysters.
★ Michelle Wong is the most awkward member of the sales team. She enjoys long walks on the beach etc.★