Seventy-Five Percent of the Menu
Fresh, local and sustainable—one chef’s goal

Above: Chef Shaddock alongside buckets of oyster shells ready for recycling. Credit: VASG/Ian Vorster.

By VASG Communications Center Manager Ian Vorster

“Great, I’m going, it feels like home,” exclaims Chef Jacki Shaddock as she opens her report to the Virginia Chef’s Association. After a stint in Vermont, she returned to Williamsburg and learned that the Chef’s Seafood Symposium was still running strong.

“One of the first things I tried to do when I started here at the James Landing Grill was to apply the knowledge that I received from the Chef’s Seafood Symposium when I was seventeen,” she continues. “And being away for five years made me realize how crazy aquaculture had got, and I needed to get up to speed—I had like seventeen oysters I had to try, but I also learned about the oyster shell recycling program.”

Chef Shaddock who is the current secretary of the association was clearly enthusiastic about shellfish and the Symposium. She now saves around 70,000 oyster shells annually—all of which are returned to the Bay, and she has learned which fish are local, for example, she didn’t know that mackerel occur here. That knowledge has greatly reduced the amount of frozen product she serves. “By next year this time, we hope to have around 75 percent of our menu as fresh, local and sustainable,” she notes.

Collected shells are cured at the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Rice Rivers Center as part of the Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program (VOSRP), before being bagged by students and volunteers. Those bagged shells are seeded with larval oysters at the spat (once oyster larvae attach to a surface, such as other oyster shells, they are known as spat) setting facility on Gwynn’s Island through a partnership between the VCU Rice Rivers Center and Island Seafood. The seeded shells are placed on sanctuary reefs in the Piankatank or lower Rappahannock Rivers.

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