His inspiration for the company was a business model that existed back in Europe. “My friend was working at his father’s oyster farm, but not exactly making big money,” Meier explains. “Until one day he strapped on a belt full of oysters and began selling them himself.”
After that 2012 oyster excursion with his friend, Meier’s imagination kicked into gear, planning how he might bring this service to the US. The idea is simple: oyster chefs shucking in front of party guests, armed with only their knives and a belt loaded with oysters and mignonette. They shuck oysters right in front of their customers, providing any information you’d like to know about sourcing, flavor profiles, and tips for enjoying them. It’s not an easy task to shuck and serve on your feet, but that’s why they’re the pros.
A quick Craigslist post sought out people who were willing to learn everything there is about oysters. This might sound somewhat daunting, given the nuances in flavor that exist between the varieties of oysters, but Rifko makes the process easier by allowing his chefs to eat as many as they’d like. “If a pastry chef just knows pastries, a grillmaster only grills — our chefs just know oysters,” he says. “They are oyster sommeliers.”
Now, Oysters XO employs 130 oyster chefs all across the country, and they’ve seen a lot of different vibes. They’ve attended both mega-parties and small gatherings alike. “One of the first events we did was the Superbowl at the Met Life stadium, and we brought something like 6,000 oysters to the VIP parties there,” he told us. Other highlights included serving oysters at the opening of the One World Trade Center, the premiere of Hamilton in LA, and a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation fundraiser. “Telling people that you shucked an oyster and handed it to Hillary Clinton is pretty cool.”