Tuck into a meal of mussels or oysters while in Jersey, and it’s almost certain the Jersey Oyster Company, run by Chris Le Masurier, will have supplied them. Waiting for him on a beach on the island’s east coast, and he arrives in an enormous red tractor, having returned from attending to his mussels. So what is it that makes Jersey mussels different?
‘They’re very sweet,’ says Chris. ‘We grow them on mussel poles, the same way as the French. They’re only a year old, and that gives them a unique flavour. Bigger dredged mussels may be two or three years old, but because ours are grown on poles, off the sea bed, there’s no chance of getting any grit inside them.’
Chris supplies mainly hotels and restaurants in Jersey, but also has some French customers. ‘Generally we struggle to meet local demand,’ he adds. ‘Mussels are a very popular dish – you’ll find them on most menus in Jersey. They’re really nice eaten à la crème, with onion and white wine sauce.’
Chris’s grandfather was the first to grow oysters and mussels in Jersey. His father took over the business, and he was roped in to help. ‘I was driving tractors on the beach when I was 10,’ he smiles. When eventually he established his own business, he went into partnership with a friend. Now they’re the largest growers in Great Britain, producing around 500 tons of oysters a year, and 200 tons of mussels.
It’s certainly quite a lifestyle. ‘If I go to London for work,’ says Chris, ‘It’s two days maximum before I get twitchy. You just can’t beat working down on the beach, with the birds and sea noises. I’m a sea person – I could never swap it for anything else.
Marriott Grosvenor Square Hotel
Jersey Oyster showcased their oysters at the British Guild of Travel Writers Annual Awards Gala Dinner (November 2008).
Gordon Ramsay’s Maze Restaurant head chef Jason Atherton created the menu for the dinner, which also featured Genuine Jersey brown crab and jewel tomato starter and Jersey Dairy ice-cream dessert.