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Whaley’s Head Chef, Daniel Perron knows a thing or two about making the city’s best oysters. We spent the day watching him cook, while learning all of his best tips and tricks.
Tell us your story! How did you first get into the world of seafood? I’ve been cooking for awhile now, and I got connected with Whaley’s about a year ago. I am a chef so I really love cooking in general, but to be completely honest, one of my biggest passions has always been seafood. Quite obviously, oysters are the big menu item here! Any secrets for eating them? My biggest pet peeve is when I see people put cocktail sauce on oysters. A lot of people love it, but I don’t think you should! The greatest thing about oysters is that they all have their different flavor profiles. Some are briny, some aren’t. Some have clean, crisp flavors. Some are creamy. Each of the oysters has its own unique flavor, and adding cocktail sauce really kind of masks that. How do you prefer to eat your oysters? Personally, I like them straight up. Or, if I’m in the mood for a little flavor, I’ll squeeze a bit of lemon juice on the top. That’s it. Simple! What gives oysters their flavor? The biggest thing is where the oyster is grown. A lot of the Virginia oysters grown in the Chesapeake are milder because that is a more freshwater environment and flavor. The farther North you go, like Massachusetts, the water is really cold and has a different profile. It’s more briny, so the oyster takes on that flavor. Besides the infamous oysters, what other menu items do you love? I really put a tremendous effort into some of the crudos we do, and I think they’re definitely more of the intricate, prettier plates. We’ve also got a crispy-fried whole fish dish that’s really nice. It’s served with some fresh vegetables, and the fish type changes according to what’s been caught fresh that day. Some of those menu items really draw more from what I personally like to eat!
So how does chef Perron eat his oysters?
I like them straight up! Or, if I’m in the mood for a little flavor, I’ll squeeze a bit of lemon juice on the top. That’s it.
Are there any menu items that you brought on when you started? To be honest, the menu changes about twice a week! It’s always rotating, according to what’s available. Seafood is very seasonal, so we go with what’s fresh. If the weather is bad for the fisherman, that also affects what they bring in. I like to change it up frequently. Regulars that come here often say their favorite is the seafood risotto. It’s been on the menu since day one, and we basically take all the fish trimmings, the lobster shells, fish bones, and make a nice aromatic stock with it. We cook that and then finish it off with coconut milk so its really nice and creamy. The risotto has a little of everything in it — some shrimp, mussels, a nice chunk of fish, so many great flavors. What about drinks? Any favorites? Obviously we have a new Rosé Garden here, so the rosé varietals are very popular! One of my favorite drinks we serve is a Hendricks Gin drink with strawberry tonic and cucumber bitters. It’s really delicious and great for summer. We also have some great beers on tap, as well. There’s something for everyone. What do you like most about seafood? I like so many things! I think it takes a little more finesse to cook good seafood, so it’s more of a challenge. You can normally slide a steak on the grill, and more than likely, it’s going to taste ok! But seafood takes more time and skill because its more delicate. There are so many different types to work with, too. There are hundreds of varieties of oysters, and fish and all of them are very unique. Everyday is completely different, and you can never get bored.
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