date published: October 9, 2006

5 questions with...

Jasper White
by Christine Celli

Chef/restaurateur Jasper White is such a seafood authority that even the legendary Julia Child picked his brain for recipes. White’s Summer Shack restaurant in the Back Bay includes a popular raw bar and a $45,000 oyster chest designed to perfectly preserve the precious bivalves. Just in time for oyster season, White tells Panorama why he thinks New England’s oysters are the best and why the only way to eat them is raw.

Q: Is it true that the best time for oysters is during the “R” months?
The summer is spawning time for oysters and they become kind of flaccid and milky and lose their flavor and texture. Beginning in September, though, pretty much the whole east coast is in big production.

Q: Do you have a favorite oyster?
I’m very fond of Pemaquids from Maine and I love Wellfleet and Cotuit oysters from Cape Cod. People tend to like the oysters from where they’re from.

Q: Oysters are a big part of this city’s culinary history, right?
Yeah. Back in the 1700s, you wouldn’t have a serious dinner in Boston without starting with oysters. There were over 30 oyster bars downtown, and most people consumed around 20–30 oysters at a time.

Q: What’s the big appeal?
It’s the purest appetizer there is. Oysters don’t fill you up and they give you good proteins and omega 3s. They stimulate the appetite and the senses so you can really enjoy your meal.

Q: And the best way to eat an oyster is raw?
They’re more healthful, and when you eat them raw, you get the full experience—smell that ocean smell, drink a little brine, chew it a little and you get a whole different array of flavors. My favorite is when someone says “I just had my first oyster and I loved it.” It’s like, what took you so long?