Christophe Happillon is the master écailler (shellfish master) behind the Oyster Gourmet, the wooden, slightly tiki-looking oyster bar at Grand Central Market. The 14-seat circular bar is his first restaurant.
Happillon was raised along the Mediterranean in the south of France and says he developed a superior knowledge of the water elements through osmosis. After graduating from high school, Happillon enrolled in the Lycée de la Mer Paul Bousquet, a maritime school in Sète, to study aquaculture. At the end of his program, he created a smokehouse to supply smoked salmon.
Happillon moved to the U.S. in 1994 and is known for his oyster pop-ups at Le Zinque, Perch, Church & State and more. At the Oyster Gourmet, Happillon is acting as a sort of oyster sommelier, with a raw bar full of oysters — including five variations each day — clams and shrimp. There's also Hawaiian poke, seafood and seaweed salads and ceviche.
What is coming up next on your menu? I am always interested in bringing something sweet from the sea, and I am still working at it. But the next thing we are bringing to our menu is a clam chowder.
What restaurant do you find yourself going to again and again and what do you order? Working in the industry, I have very little time to go out for dinner, so for me to be talking about going back again and again is far-fetched. A few chefs I have enjoyed food from are Ricardo Zarate at Picca, Laurent Quenioux and David Féau.
What is your favorite breakfast? French toast with powdered sugar and maple syrup.
What is the last non-food book you read? "A World Lit Only By Fire" by William Manchester.
The last cookbook you read and what inspired you to pick it up? "The Language of Food" by Dan Jurafsky. I was inspired, as I have been so many times, by Evan Kleiman's review on her great program "Good Food" on KCRW.
317 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, (310) 570-0682, www.theoystergourmet.com.