Downtown restaurant Acadiana recently saw an early start to Mardi Gras, as hundreds of Washingtonians gathered in homage to one of Cajun Country’s tastiest exports: oysters. 2015 marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf Coast oyster industry was eager to strut their stuff at an event designed to showcase the recovery of the industry following a day spent meeting with members of Congress about the current state of the oyster.
Aptly titled “Let the World Be Your Oyster!”, the night saw chefs from three New Orleans restaurants — Acme Oyster House, Zea Rotisserie & Grill, and Restaurant R’Evolution — prepare their oyster recipes to showcase the versatility of these mollusks, including Restaurant R’Evolution chef Chris Lusk’s Crispy Oysters Rockefeller.
While the crowd was delighted to branch out from the standard oysters on ice with lemon, the focus of the evening really was on how the oyster industry is managing ongoing environmental challenges like excess debris from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and damaged marine habitats following 2010’s BP oil spill, which have stunted production and placed a heavy burden on oystermen, many of whom have been working in the region for generations. The Eastern Oyster, which is harvested in both the Gulf and the Chesapeake, once accounted for 75% of the nation’s oyster supply, but has diminished tremendously in the wake of environmental disaster.
Wilbert Collins, owner of Collins Oyster Co. and an iconic figure of the Gulf Coasts’s seafood trade, was there to dish out his classic marinated oysters and raise awareness for the fragile nature of the industry. “It’s been tough, and we’ve still got a long way to go,” he told Edible DC, while donning an apron that said “Shuck Me, Suck Me, Eat Me Raw!” and a charming smile on his face. “But Americans love their oysters, and no hurricane is going to stop us in the long run.”