Most of SoDel Concepts’ 11 restaurants are known for their oyster dishes. At two recent events, the hospitality group’s employees recently went from bagging shells to shucking bivalves.
Employees from Matt’s Fish Camp in Lewes and Catch 54 in Fenwick Island helped bag oyster shells Feb. 5 as part of the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays’ Don’t Chuck your Shucks program.
The center, which partners with Delaware restaurants and the Nature Conservancy, uses bagged shells to create oyster reefs throughout the watershed. The shells become nurturing homes for juvenile oysters, known as spat. They also become habitat for small bottom-dwelling organisms, such as grass shrimp, which support commercially valuable crabs and shrimp.
“We sell hundreds of oysters on the half shell each month,” said Doug Ruley, vice president of culinary operations for SoDel Concepts. “It’s rewarding to see that shells can be repurposed and recycled.”
The teams from Matt’s Fish Camp and Catch 54 assembled more than 700 bags of oyster shells. Once gathered, the shells are cured for several months to kill any pathogens and bacteria.
“We’re restaurant people, so we’re accustomed to hard work, but bagging the oysters was really hard work,” said Julie Hemp, manager of Catch 54. “It was still fun to get together as a team and do something totally different. Plus, we lucked out with the weather; it was a beautiful day.”
At Bluecoast Seafood Grill + Raw Bar in Rehoboth Beach Feb. 27, about 50 SoDel Concepts employees participated in an Oyster 101 boot camp, presented by Ben Mumford of Mumford Seafood. Participants learned to shuck oysters, and several experienced shuckers faced off in a friendly contest. Corporate Chef Maurice Catlett came in first, followed by Brian Hutchinson, bar manager at Catch 54. Charles Armstrong, executive chef at Catch 54, and Chris Lippa, a shucker at Catch 54, were strong contenders.
For information about SoDel Concepts, go to www.sodelconcepts.com.