A Pearl of a Concept: Parker’s Garage Launches Signature Oyster

Jun 27, 2018
Photo by: Ryan Johnson for Ann Coen Photography The first taste. Captain Greg Cudnik samples a Parker's Pearl straight out of the bay.

Parker’s Garage has introduced to the world the Parker’s Pearl, making the Beach Haven restaurant the first in New Jersey to produce its very own signature oyster.

Parker’s Garage owners are proud to serve the freshest seafood, taken out of the water that same day, harvested and delivered directly to the restaurant, sometimes by boat, by Barnegat Bay oyster farmers. The new Parker’s Pearl oysters are cultivated just across the bay from Beach Haven at Rose Cove by a farmer named Matt Gregg from Forty North Oyster Farms. He grew up in Monmouth County and had one of his first jobs at a fish market where they sold oysters.

“I became interested in where all the seafood was coming from while working at the fish market, so I decided to go work on a fishing boat to learn more about it,” Gregg said.

After a few years of working on the boat, he attended the University of Rhode Island, where he studied fishery science. However, there were not enough students within that program, so they combined the fishery science majors with aquaculture majors and split the classes. “I did not have much of an interest in aquaculture, and I was forced to take classes for that major,” Gregg said, “but one day we went to an oyster farm in Rhode Island and, after seeing what exactly oyster farmers do, I realized that this is what I wanted to do.”

That summer he worked for that oyster farm in Rhode Island and quickly saw the large amount of potential the Barnegat Bay had. Until that point there had been only one oyster farm in New Jersey, Cape May Salts, which has been operating since the 1990s. After looking into the permit requirements, Gregg made his mind up. Fast forward a few years, and Matt Gregg has 87 customers, 80 of which are restaurants.

Almost 90 percent of the oysters sold in the Long Beach Island region come from the Barnegat Oyster Collective, which is basically all of the farmers that harvest oysters within the Barnegat Bay. The collective consists of Forty North Oyster Farms, Sloop Point Oyster Co. and Swan Point Oysters. It was started by Gregg and Scott Lennox, and their mission for the collective was to bring together the ideas, resources and people to back an oyster resurgence in the area. The collective looks to encourage people to know where their food derives from, to support small farmers, and to make New Jersey a great oyster destination once again.

For oyster farmers, the main priority is how easy it is to shuck. Taste is secondary.

“Most of the time, the people who are ordering the oysters are the shuckers, and they want something that they can open very easily without having a shell crumble. And here at Rose Cove, we naturally create a good, strong shell,” Gregg said.

Parker’s Garage has teamed up with Forty North to create the one and only Parker’s Pearl – a smaller oyster, with a mid-range of salt and a taste on the sweeter side. “We get a really nice oyster here with a really clean shell and a deep cup,” Gregg said.

Give it a try: Parker’s Garage is located at 16 Northwest Ave., open daily from 4 to 10 p.m.

— Johnny McGinley

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