New York Oyster Week is upon us (September 20th-29th) is a celebration of the oyster’s past, present and future role in the history, culture, cuisine, economy and ecology in and around New York City. The week long celebration was created and co founded by Oyster Aficionado Kevin Joseph, who grew up in a seafood restaurant family in East Hampton, NY and Naples, FL. After college in Boulder, CO, he began to pursue a career in event marketing. NYOW is the perfect fusion of his lives experiences, the things he knows best, Seafood & Events. The rest of his story and expertise is in marketing. He is the Founder and CEO of Otaku marketing OBSESSION and he brings a vast network and marketing expertise to New York City and Oyster Week. We recently spoke with Joseph about Oyster Week, advice for first timers, and much more.
What was your motivation behind starting New York Oyster Week?
I wanted to create a fun and delicious way to remind people that NYC is a maritime city with a history, culture, cuisine, economy and ecology that oysters were at the center of for 150 - 200 years. That the cobble stones and the cornerstones of New Amsterdam were all fixed with mortar made from oyster shells. And that Oysters were once the primary source of protein for all new Yorkers, rich and poor, black and white. These are material historical facts. New York City was built with and to some degree, on the oyster beds of a massive estuary. I want to connect people to that fact. That history.
How will this New York Oyster Week be different from the last?
We have introduced a couple of new signature events like Shuckeasy and Empire Oyster. We have a host of new restaurants that are participating this year. There are 14 restaurants each featuring a signature oyster dish. We had 10 last year.
We've begun to grow beyond Manhattan as we have four events in !queens and a major event out on Long Island, on The North Fork. We really want New York Oyster Week to be something that is enjoyed and celebrate from Buffalo to Blue Point, Tribeca to Ithaca. In time it will.
I often see people throwing all types of toppings on a oyster. What toppings or sauce would you recommend for the best tasting experience? Additionally, I have a few friends that are scared to try Oysters because of their appearance. What advice would you give to someone trying Oysters for the first time? How can I make it an enjoyable experience for them?
In truth, none. Unless you prefer the taste of cocktail sauce or mignonette to that of an oyster or the waters from which it comes. An oyster, properly enjoyed, is done so "naked" or without sauces and so forth.
Unless you think it's OK to chew gum and drink wine at the same, eat oysters naked, especially the first time you have a new species of variety. TASTE the oyster! I will say my guilty pleasure is a Spirited Pearls. To learn what that is one must attend some of the NYOW events. But let’s just say it's a great way to mix oysters with whiskey, gin, vodka, wine or champagne. I love them.
Embrace raw, whole foods or fall asleep on the couch watching a rerun of Friends with a pint of factory made vanilla ice cream wedged between you and the cat. Do something every day that scares you a little bit. Eat a new oyster every week. Be a caveman for a second. Tap into your primal self that part of yourself you share with the first bi-pedal hominids who were (in fact) the first bold men (and women) to eat an oyster. Eating an entire animal...things that were alive a minute ago contain all of their organs, blood and guts is something that is really good for you physically, mentally, spiritually.
What's next for Oyster Week? What will you like to see implemented in the future?
We want to see New York Oyster Week celebrated NSE&W in the Empire State. Then we want to take Oyster Week to LA, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, DC, San Francisco, Toronto, Montreal and many many more markets. We'd like to see our NYC and NY State events grow. We'd like to see every shell from every oyster eaten recycled so that they don’t go to a landfill and that they can be used for oyster reef restoration projects. We'd like to develop a new oyster loving culture in New York that celebrates the bay men, farmers and divers who bring them to our tables. In the end, we'd like people to see, feel, connect with, appreciate and value the connections between food, nature and mankind, and protect them.
Be sure to check out www.oysterweek.com for all the fun events taking place during New York Oyster Week. We hope to see you there!