Q: You grew up in a commercial fishing family, and were an oyster farmer for years – do you think this gives you a different perspective?
ROB: I think so. It’s my love, it’s my passion, even when I was pipelining, if I started talking about fishing or oyster farming, people said – there’s a twinkle in your eye. Having that background to know exactly how it was caught, and I’ve actually gone out and done it, is a whole different ball game. I have so much support from fishermen, I think, because I have that background and they know who’s going to be the best person to put their story forward. I feel I have a bond with them because I’ve done it, I’m not just a seafood salesman, I’m one of them.
Q: You recently launched a new initiative, Fish Club – what has that been like?
ROB: I launched Fish Club at the start of October , and the response has been amazing. It’s a fish delivery service to people’s homes. They get five different kinds of fish, but I decide what the fish is. They get all the information they need. That’s one of the biggest misconceptions I have to deal with, in general. We’re dealing with fishing, not catching… we’re not guaranteed to get the fish we order because we don’t know if they’re going to catch them!
Q: Do you find people have misconceptions about seafood here, given that we’re a landlocked province?
ROB: That term “landlocked” drives me nuts – we have airplanes. Everything gets here very quickly. Stuff that comes from both coasts is here and delivered within 48 hours. Even the stuff I bring in from New Zealand, it’s caught Sunday/Monday, and it’s here Thursday. Anything fresh I fly in…that’s I think why I’ve got the reputation, from what I’ve been told, is that I have the best quality. I take pride in having the best quality.
Q: What’s the story behind the name?
ROB: It’s from Effingham Inlet [on Vancouver Island]. The branding goes from when I was growing the Effing Oyster, the Effingham Oyster, started a Twitter account called Effing Oyster, and grew my sales by 30 per cent in six months. I was in a very remote location, an hour and a half boat ride from the nearest town, generator power, but that’s when I got into social media and it connected me with people who love food, who love oysters.
Q: You got your start with oysters – what do you wish people knew about them?
ROB: I think in the last two years oysters have come a long way in Edmonton. I’ve gone to a lot of restaurants and shucked oysters at private events; we do oyster bar catering. I present it as an experience, because oysters are a lot like wine. Depending on how and where they’re grown, that’s going to influence the flavour profile.