10 to Watch 2016: The Wandering Mollusk

“We want people to have a great experience, so our approach at an event is to be a fun part of what’s going on. Gonzo service with maritime hospitality. Yeah, that’s it!”

Photograph by Jeffrey Bosdet.

When is an oyster not just an oyster? When it’s procurred, lovingly cared for on its way from farm to palate, then expertly shucked and delectably served up with entertaining aplomb by the bivalve connoisseurs of The Wandering Mollusk Oyster Catering Co.

For starters, owners Jess Taylor and Sean Roberts are beyond passionate about oysters and creating an oyster culture in Victoria. These prodigal Island boys, who honed their oyster knowledge while working at the famous Rodney’s Oyster House in Vancouver, wax poetic about the freshness, texture and merroir (the maritime equivalent of terroir) of their oysters, procurred from Island farms, notably Nanaimo’s Evening Cove.

“Respect the oyster, that’s exactly what we do,” says Roberts. While the superb quality and freshness of The Wandering Mollusk’s oysters are key reasons for their success, the other reason is the entertainment factor they bring to catered events, from weddings to business launches. “We’re part of the whole experience,” says Roberts.

Fans can even count on The Wandering Mollusk for pop-up events — or Wandering Mollusk Takeovers — announced on social media networks. And this year, as this oyster-shucking success story moves to Stage Two of their grand plan, they’ve come up with the idea of a portable shucking trailer complete with shucking station and barbecue, allowing them freedom to take their business to festivals and locales beyond Victoria.

On the way, they plan to keep busting myths about oysters, including the idea that you can’t eat oysters in months that don’t have the letter “R.” But they won’t dispel the myth that oysters are aphrodisiacs. After all, you just can’t buy that kind of business buzz.

Q&A with Sean Roberts and Jess Taylor of The Wandering Mollusk

Best business advice you received?

Jess: Sean has a friend who runs one of Toronto’s top catering companies. His advice was to say yes whenever you can when you are starting out. So if people asked him if he could make 400 ostrich burgers, he would say sure! He had no idea how he was going to do it, but saying yes opened up opportunity.

Sean: To be authentic. To be true to ourselves and have a business model that’s
not only sustainable for our future but also helps the farmers and creates an oyster culture here.

What scared you about starting out?

Jess: All I knew before we launched the business came from working in an oyster restaurant where I just had to play my part. With our business, I had to create my part. There’s such a difference when you’re trying to understand the accounting, the marketing and all those things about running a business. But I knew at the end of the day that what we were offering was good.

The Wandering Mollusk Business Profile

Type of business: Boutique oyster catering company

Year founded: 2015

Owners/principals: Jess Taylor and Sean Roberts

Employees: 1

This article is from the April/May 2016 issue of Douglas.