Frenchman invents lemony oysters in time for holidays

Above, a person shucks a So’ooh flavored oyster in Marennes, southwestern France. Seafood farmer Joffrey Dubault farms some 40 tons of the bivalves each year, and took him four years of hits and misses to perfect the flavored oyster. (AFP)
Updated 24 December 2017

Frenchman invents lemony oysters in time for holidays

MARENNES, France: A French seafood farmer is proposing lemon-flavored oysters this holiday season, a delicacy he perfected after four years of trial-and-error experiments in his garage.
Joffrey Dubault, 29, also offers oysters flavored with shallots, another perennial accompaniment usually served finely chopped and floating in vinegar.
“It was pretty discouraging at first when I had to throw out 90 percent,” the lanky oyster farmer says, a baseball cap shielding his blue eyes. “Now I have a 95-percent success rate.”
The process, which Dubault has patented, involves plunging the oysters into a tank of sea water laced with lemon extract for between two and 12 hours.
The oysters naturally pump the water through sieve-like gills, becoming impregnated with the flavor.
The technique may seem simple but “there are 16 steps to the process, and if any one of them isn’t done correctly the result is failure,” says Dubault, who farms some 40 tons of the bivalves each year off Marennes, France’s oyster capital on the west coast.
Dubault, who says he got the idea from customers at his market stall constantly asking him to throw in a lemon along with their purchase, began marketing the pre-flavored oysters in October and has found buyers from Belgium to Hong Kong.
He won recognition for his invention at a seafood trade fair in Brussels last April when he said Chinese visitors congratulated him, saying they had been attempting a similar feat for seven years.
The nod in Brussels encouraged Dubault to set up his company, called So’ooh, to market the novelty.
Targeting Asian clients, he has created a ginger version, while oysters flavored with muscatel, the sweet fortified wine, are aimed at the Italian palate.
Next year he plans to add grapefruit and mirabelle plum to his flavor menu, Dubault says, while truffle and pepper versions will follow for the next end-of-year holidays.
“People have asked me to add chocolate, but I say no way!” he exclaims.
Of all his customers, the French are the hardest to win over, he says, calling them “purists.”
But he is hopeful, having recently signed on with a major supermarket chain.
“People eat flavored yoghurts and drink flavored water, so why not oysters?” he asks.
Then there are his raspberry-flavored oysters, aimed at young people. It is a future-looking strategy, since the average age of oyster lovers “is fairly advanced,” he says.

The man who leads 10 million chefs from his kitchen in Saudi Arabia

Thomas Gugler (left) is based in Saudi Arabia. (Photo supplied)
Updated 15 July 2018

The man who leads 10 million chefs from his kitchen in Saudi Arabia

DUBAI: As far as a career in food goes, Thomas Gugler seems to have done it all — from working with five-star hotels and gourmet restaurants to hospitals, airlines, mass catering and teaching in universities. Having worked in 13 different countries across the spectrum of the food and beverage industry, Gugler moved to Saudi Arabia in 2002 to join Saudi Arabian Airlines as their executive master chef. In 2009, he co-founded the Saudi Arabian Chefs Association.

“I knew I wanted to become a chef since I was two,” Gugler told Arab News. “My mother and grandmother were both fantastic cooks and that’s how I fell in love with this profession.”

He’s come a long way since he was two in his 35-year-long career, 17 of which he has spent in Saudi Arabia.

Now, as president of the World Association of Chefs Societies, he is tasked with the significant responsibility of leading more than 10 million members from across 110 countries.

“We organize worldwide cooking competitions and educational programs, as well as look into issues such as sustainability and cultural cooking. Our role is to build bridges between the commercial part and the consumers.”

With the head of such a prestigious global organization being based in Saudi Arabia, the local industry should be poised for growth, but, according to Gugler, there is plenty of room for improvement.

“Generally, the cooking and food standards here are not the best but with time and effort all this will be developed more and more,” he said.

Socio-political changes and the boost to the Saudi tourism sector will go a long way in developing the food and beverage industry, he believes.

“This will motivate and benefit the entire hospitality industry and raise the level, which is necessary. Stricter rules, regulations and food safety practices will encourage young and talented people in the industry to become better. It’s a golden opportunity,” Gugler said

His personal preference in food veers toward the local. “I like Arabic cuisine. The best kind is the cultural ethnic cuisine, the heritage of which can be traced back centuries. The local Hijazi cuisine is something no one should miss,” he said.