D.C. restaurateur to grow her own oysters

Hank’s Oyster Bar owner works with farmer to create signature shellfish

Jamie Leeds, chef-owner of the two-unit Hank’s Oyster Bar in the Washington, D.C., area, is working with a local farmer to grow signature oysters for her restaurants.

Leeds already gives her used oyster shells back to Bruce Woods, who is using them to recreate a reef in Nomini Creek in Westmoreland County, Va., a low-saline estuary in Chesapeake Bay.

Woods is placing spats, or larval oysters, on the used shells on the creek’s western shore to raise shellfish to be used exclusively at Hank’s Oyster Bar.

“We’ll be involved in the whole life cycle of the oyster, which is really cool,” Leeds said.

She said the clear water of Nomini Creek and its low saline content should result in a sweeter, less salty product than typical East Coast oysters.

“It’ll be a nice alternative to get a local oyster that’s not as strong,” she said, adding that they might be available as soon as six months from now.

Leeds said she has been buying Woods’ Dragon Creek oysters since she opened the first Hank’s five years ago, and that he proposed the idea of creating a signature oyster for her restaurants about a year ago.

“We’ve been saving the oyster shells,” she said. “We run them through the dishwasher and store them for [Woods], and when he delivers the oysters he picks up the shells. It’s very easy to do. You just have to have a good relationship with your farmer.”

Leeds has yet to name her signature oyster, but said she is thinking of naming it after her son, Hayden, and calling the reef where they’re growing Hayden’s Reef.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]