Serving Up Success on the Half Shell
With The Oyster Bed, Adam and Tommy Waller are revolutionizing the way we cook oysters while benefiting Louisiana wetlands.
Behind every great idea is an origin story. For brothers Adam and Tommy Waller, Louisiana natives and inventors of a new kind of cooking platter called The Oyster Bed, it began with a trip to Africa and a mother’s advice.
In 2011, Tommy, a Marine infantry officer, was about to be deployed overseas. Right before the trip, as was Waller tradition, the brothers and their families got together to open a sack of oysters and have a going-away party. While talking about Tommy’s eventual return home from Africa, Adam said, “he didn’t have a job lined up, and my mom posed a question: Why don’t you boys invent something?”
That got them started thinking, but they still needed a product to invent. Adam, a physical therapist by day, came up with the idea for The Oyster Bed while shucking oysters one day.
As any at-home cook can attest, oysters can be tough to wedge from their shell (it’s good to have a flathead screwdriver handy), and just as challenging to cook evenly. The Oyster Bed would solve both problems, since using it required pre-shucked oysters, and the platter’s design allowed for the oysters to cook perfectly and retain their natural renderings.
Inspiration? Check. Invention? Check. Skills to make it a reality? Well, not quite—yet.
Adam admits to being pretty green when he began work on The Oyster Bed. So, he said, “I signed up for a pottery class and used what I learned to create prototypes.” He began reading books on oyster dishes—the kind you see today in antique stores—dating back to the 19th century.
The brothers studied the industry as much as possible. That included attending meetings of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board’s Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, a group comprised of some of the state’s most knowledgeable commercial oystermen.
Then the Wallers went further, heading out to the Gulf with commercial fishermen to see where the whole process begins. That, Adam said, is where the second part of The Oyster Bed’s mission became clear. While on the water, the brothers saw firsthand how much of Louisiana’s coastline is eroding every year, and figured that by designing The Oyster Bed specifically to use pre-shucked oysters, shells that might otherwise end up in landfills could be used to prevent erosion. Oyster houses that produce pre-shucked oysters, Adam said, “don’t just throw away shells. They give them to fishermen to create new reefs. An oyster reef, whether it’s manmade or natural, is a sustainable way to prevent erosion.”
With the newfound expertise and a prototype in hand, the brothers patented The Oyster Bed, found a manufacturer and began raising money. Through an online fundraising campaign on Kickstarter, Adam and Tommy raised enough capital to bring the platter to market, and in late 2014, the first Oyster Beds shipped to customers.
Looking to the future, Adam says, “we want to grow our brand, and create something that’s recognized and associated with Louisiana’s culture. It takes a patient effort, but there’s a sense of victory in the whole process, just having the idea and knowing that it’s good, and finally getting it on the market.”
Know Better. Eat Better.
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