The oyster has earned itself a high-class reputation.
It has been known as the food of royalty and the wealthy but the oysterman Brent Petkau is on a mission to bring the oyster to every table.
“The best way to enjoy an oyster is with a bottle of wine on a beach wearing a straw hat with either your lover or your family. Not by myself,” said Petkau. “I eat them by myself but it just loves being at social event. It really loves that kind of setting.”
Petkau is an shellfish farmer who splits his time between his farm on Cortes Island on BC’s coast and Nelson.
“I found something that is a labour of love and it’s almost like when you find your soulmate,” he said. “The work I do is not easy it’s actually very challenging but very rewarding if you find the right market place. It comes to me easily. I absolutely love being an oysterman on the BC coast.”
Petkau moved to Nelson 20 years ago and for the past 15 years has been owning and operating his oyster farm.
“I knew right away when I had my first oyster that there was no food that could match that,” he said. “At that time I certainly knew that the word oyster actually meant something. It’s used in so many ways – Rolex watches, the Oyster watch, the subway in London. Oysters have just had this long, long history, really from the beginning of man starting to be civilized. I’ve known that it’s always been special so now I am owning a farm and growing thousands of oysters.”
But he isn’t just growing oysters he’s selling them to his exclusive market in Nelson.
“I divide my time between two very beautiful places,” he said. “I spend two weeks here and then spend 10 days and come back and forth back and forth. I do that every month.”
Petkau knows that what he does in Nelson couldn’t be done else where in Canada.
“What I do here I don’t think I could do in Victoria, Vancouver or Calgary,” he said. “Here people are very connected to their food and still do a lot of home cooking and cooking from scratch. They buy and use the oysters and accompany them with garden fresh produce. This community here is the best of the rural and urban combination.”
As Petkau prepares for Wednesday, April 18 showing of Shellshocked at The Royal as part of the Deconstructing Dinner Film Festival, he enforces that he’s going beyond growing and selling oysters, he’s promoting a revolution.
“The thing that I’m about right now and this is why the film festival is something that I treat as a real priority is that I want to promote a revolution,” he said. “I want to promote revolutionary radical thinking where you walk the talk with having this as a priority to support the farmers and the fishermen, protect marine ecosystems and educate about the history and current context of the oyster.”
Petkau will be doing a talk as part of the film festival night and will be shucking and serving oysters.