Oysters Rockefeller Was Named For The Richest Man In The World

What do an oyster dish and the famous 19th-century American businessman John D. Rockefeller have in common? They are both known for being rich — one in taste, the other in monetary terms, according to NOLA. The association was once so close that an oyster dish was once named for the famous philanthropist and founder of the Standard Oil Company, per History.

A recipe of Oysters Rockefeller from Tyler Florence of the Food Network includes butter, garlic, breadcrumbs, shallots, fresh spinach, Pernod (a French anise-flavored liqueur), rock salt, fresh herbs, and (the star of the show) — two dozen oysters on the half shell. Florence's recipe also calls for a sauce made of champagne vinegar, shallots, black peppercorns, chervil, and lemons. 

Oysters weren't always easily accessible. Freshness is key to eating seafood, particularly if it's raw, and fresh oysters live in bays and oceans, according to Healthline. Highly valued for their taste and their reported love-inducing properties, oysters were, in Rockefeller's day, almost exclusively eaten by the affluent. At one time, Rockefeller was the richest man in the world, so maybe it's not a complete shock that he was able to get a dish named after him. But how did it happen? The story goes that a restaurant in New Orleans came up with a new dish to replace a species of French black snails that were hard to obtain, per Food & Wine, and in looking for something that was synonymous with opulence, drew inspiration from the iconic businessman.

A secret recipe

Originating with Antoine's Restaurant in New Orleans in 1899, Jules Alciatore created an oyster dish with a decadent sauce that he chose to name after the richest man in the world at the time, John D. Rockefeller (via NOLA). Antoine's reputation grew on the creation of Oysters Rockefeller, which remains on its menu to this day. Other oyster dishes featured at Antoine's include charbroiled oysters, oysters foch, and oysters bienville.

Oysters Rockefeller was so popular on Antoine's menu, other restaurants began to add it to theirs, according to NOLA. However, the original recipe by Jules Alciatore remains a family secret, so all others are simply copycats. One of the kings of the culinary world, James Beard, shared a recipe for Oysters Rockefeller that is referred to as an "authentic" recipe and which contains fresh fennel, parsley, celery, shallots, and chervil, but (unlike Florence's recipe) no spinach. The recipe claims that to properly make Oysters Rockefeller, they should be baked on a bed of rock salt for only a few minutes to allow the oysters and sauce to heat up. 

It's not clear whether or not John D. Rockefeller dined on the mollusk dish that bears his name, but it's hard not to feel connected to the legendary businessman when enjoying a luxurious platter of Oysters Rockefeller.