Kristoffer Daniel works at the French Market oyster hub J's Seafood Dock & Oyster Bar (1100 N. Peters St., Suite 25; 504-523-5757). A chef by trade, Daniel works in the kitchen, grilling fish and preparing boils, but it's the oyster bar that currently occupies most of his time. Daniel spoke with Gambit about working the crowds at the French Market and how to shuck an oyster.
Where did you learn to shuck oysters?
Daniel: I learned how to cook at Cafe Reconcile, but my uncle taught me how to (shuck oysters). I didn't really start shucking until I began working here four years ago. I grew up in the 7th Ward, and we ate a lot of seafood — crawfish and other fish — but not oysters. I still wouldn't say I love oysters. I don't really like them raw, but I like them char-broiled, with lots of butter and garlic.
When shucking, it's all about finding the right opening spot. I've seen people try to open oysters all kinds of ways. A lot of people might try to hit it on the table and break it open that way, but that's how you cut your hand open. If an oyster is bad, it might be a little slimy, and then we'll throw it away. It doesn't smell bad or different, which is what you'd think.
What's the busiest time of year for you?
D: Right now is probably the busiest time for us. During Mardi Gras and through festival season it gets crazy. There are a lot of tourists. At the moment, we're going through about five or six sacks of oysters a day. There are usually around 90 to 100 oysters in a sack. On the busiest days, I probably shuck about 15 sacks, so about 1,300 or 1,400 oysters. We sell a lot of seafood besides oysters, too: shrimp, crawfish, beignets and boils.
It's not bad; I think it's really fun. You go through so many (oysters) you don't really think about it any more.
What's the strangest request you've gotten from a tourist?
D: Some people will ask to have their oysters steamed on the grill, just like that, no seasoning or spice or anything. So I'll do that for them, but on the grill like that they turn out pretty dry.