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Jay Shaffer -- Shaffer City Oyster Bar & Grill, New York, NY

Jay ShafferRR: From the beginning, you decided to make oysters your focal point. Why oysters?

JS: I actually intended to open a steak house, but I wanted this location and the room wasn't going to work as a steak house. I made the decision to go the seafood route and I wanted something to give the restaurant an identity. When I was 15, I ran five swimming pool snack bars and they were known for my iced tea. I made great iced tea because the pools had the soda concession and I was forced to do something different. I learned that lesson back then, and when I opened my restaurant, oysters seemed appropriate. At the time, there were maybe nine oyster bars in Manhattan - today there is at least seventy-eight, so I was fortunate to get into it at the beginning.

RR: With so much competition, what do you do better than the others when it comes to oysters?

JS: I made myself an expert on the subject and I treat oysters just like I treat my wine. I write my own descriptions of every wine that is served in the restaurant and I do the same for my oysters. The real secret to oysters is finding the perfect suppliers. For the most part, I use local farmers all over the United States and Canada and not the traditional large, local seafood purveyors. It didn't happen overnight, but over the years I have developed strong relationships with my purveyors and they understand precisely what I want. I am very demanding and they continue to perform. I have even developed my own oyster beds and I serve a Long Island-raised Shaffer Cove Oyster that is exclusive to my restaurant. In terms of being different, we also insist upon absolute freshness. An oyster can remain fresh for at least two weeks, but I won't serve an oyster in my restaurant after three days, and as demanding as I am, I immediately throw-away some 12% of all my oysters because they fail to meet my specifications. All of the above makes us stand out, and for all the right reasons, the media continues to award us the accolades when it comes to fresh oysters in New York.

Jay Shaffer is the Chef/Owner of Shaffer City Oyster Bar & Grill in New York City

This was an interview excerpt -- click here for the full interview...

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