Rick Hackett and Meredith Melville are seasoned veterans of the Bay Area restaurant scene. Rick was executive chef at MarketBar, and the pair opened Bocanova six years ago. After huge success with the restaurant, and with a fundraising partnership there, the two opened Jack’s Oyster Bar and Fish House last summer. Soon after, they initiated a fundraising partnership with The Watershed Project. Last week, Rick and Meredith sat down to talk oysters and sustainability with Communications Intern Linnaea Weld.
Linnaea Weld: What’s the story behind Jack’s?
Meredith Melville: Rick had always been excited about the idea of doing a fish house.
Rick Hackett: Actually it originally started as a chowder house. It was going to be all sorts of different chowders, and oysters on the half shell.
MM: Anyways, this was his original idea but the feedback we got was that people associated chowder with a cold rainy day and thought that we should expand the concept to embrace more people. So we decided to call it Jack’s Oyster Bar and Fish House. And we had been thinking about it quite a while, all of a sudden it dawned on us- what could be more perfect than to have it right here on the Estuary? So that’s when we approached our landlords with our idea, and they were excited, and that was how it all began.
LW: Do you have a special connection to oysters?
RH: I was a big supporter of Drake’s Bay for the longest time, so I was sorry to see them go. But, I have always loved oysters, especially on the half shell, and San Francisco Bay used to have a lot of oysters. I read somewhere that Mark Twain used to dine on oysters all the time when he was here, from the Bay.
LW: Why did you choose to partner with The Watershed Project?
MM: When we decided to do this, we were very aware of the overpicking and all the things that are happening with the growing popularity of seafood. That was a concern of mine- how can we open a fish restaurant without contributing to that. So we did a lot of research about companies to work with in terms of getting products. Then, I started looking for organizations like The Watershed Project, to see what was out there and to see if that was something we could use Jack’s Oyster Bar and Fish House to support, so I ran across your website and I saw that you were reintroducing oysters to the Bay and I thought, “wow, perfect,” so I reached out.
LW: Why should people who like eating oysters care about sustainability?
MM: I think everyone should care about sustainability across the board and not just as far as seafood is concerned, but I think that we as human beings have come to a point where instead of exploiting nature, we have to learn from nature, and one of the things I think about oysters is that they are one of the most, if not the most, sustainable seafood around, because of how they live and grow.
RH: And the amount of protein they provide. You can farm them, and there isn’t much difference between farm-raised and wild oysters.
MM: And they’re sexy and fun and we love people getting together, and getting together and sharing a platter of oysters is a really fun time.
Jack’s is located in Jack London Square and is open every day. For every featured oyster purchased, Jack’s donates 5 cents to The Watershed Project. Look out for an article in next month’s Ebb and Flow about another great restaurant: WaterBar, who also graciously donate to The Watershed Project with every oyster purchased.