An oyster bar on every corner?
OK, that’s probably a bit of a stretch for Edmonton. But given how quickly Rob Tryon has found a welcome reception for his seafood business here, there is obviously an underserved local market for the fruits of the sea.
You may very well have heard about him already, or seen his cheeky hashtag (#geteffed) floating around social media, for his is not a schedule of leisure. Since launching Effing Seafoods last November, Tryon has done dozens of pop-up events, cooking classes, impromptu oyster bars and private events around town. His products are being served at two dozen restaurants, and he’ll be a regular presence at a handful of farmers’ markets this season—French Quarter on Sunday, Southwest on Wednesday night, St Albert on Saturday, the Grand Market on 124th Thursday nights (once a month).
All this is in-between his weekly schedule of ordering, receiving and delivering seafood, which hails from the BC coast—except for his sturgeon, which comes from New Brunswick—where he grew up in a commercial-fishing family. He studied fisheries and aquaculture and farmed oysters (in Effingham Inlet, hence his company’s name) before heading west to work in Alberta’s oil industry for a couple of years prior to launching this business.
Ask Tryon for the name of the company behind that piece of salmon or bag of oysters, and he’ll do you one better: he’ll give you the name of the boat on which they were caught.
“My coastal relationships are awesome,” Tryon says, sitting at a table in Credo Cafe, fresh off his most recent round of deliveries. “They’re huge companies, and for them to be dealing with me is unheard of. But they’re dealing with me because they know me, they know the family name, and they’re excited for what I’m doing. All I’ve asked throughout Edmonton is an opportunity: an opportunity to prove myself, to prove my products, and a foot in the door.”
The farm-to-fork movement—or, as Tryon dubs it in his case, sea to spoon—has undoubtedly helped him build those relationships here: with the ocean being so far away, Albertans are used to generic seafood (with a few exceptions). But the freshness Tryon can offer is equally, if not more, important.
“Restaurants have my shellfish in hand before they’ve been out of the water for 48 hours,” Tryon says. “So, very fresh: I make the claim that they’re the freshest shellfish in Alberta.”
While his fish products are mostly frozen, he explains that this doesn’t mean they aren’t fresh: after being caught and cleaned, the fish are flash frozen right on the boat, sealing in the flavour.
Tryon’s ultimate vision is a storefront of his own, part retail market and part café, with a regular schedule of educational classes in the evenings. Given the success other locals have found transitioning from sold-out pop-ups to long lines at a brick-and-mortar shop (I’m looking at you, Prairie Noodle House), that might just be in the cards.
But for the next few months, he’s concentrating on the customer base he’s built in town and will continue to offer education—whether at formal classes or just the farmers’ market—to dispel the myths and intimidation factor around cooking seafood at home.
“A lot of it has to do with presentation and terminology,” he explains. “People think of [oysters] as slimy—well no, they’re slippery.
“I love telling the story,” he continues. “I’m already starting to get booked for weddings this summer to come and do oyster bars. … I want to see oysters in Edmonton like they are in Vancouver: everywhere. I’m seeing more places carrying oysters, and I think we’ll see a lot more this summer.”