I had the great opportunity to be connected to this layered entrepreneur, an oyster farmer and a stellar business visionary, Pete Stein, owner and founder, of Peeko — an oyster farm located on the North Fork.
This past summer, I curated several interactive events in the culinary, wellness, and cultural spheres in East Hampton. I had the honor to work with and luckily sample, the sweet, yet briny Peeko Oysters, both raw and fire-grilled at a stunning event hosted by The Independent, Chef Kevin O’Connor, and Cobram Estate olive oil.
In 2016, Stein traded in his desk job, for a deep-seeded passion project that is now a thriving business, selling to the top echelon of Manhattan restaurants along with the leading East End eateries. To name a few: Small Batch, Osteria Leana, the Preston House, The Mallard, Port Waterfront and Grill, and Vine Street Café, Salt, and Sunset Beach on Shelter Island.
Entrepreneurial endeavors are often more complex and time-consuming than the actual pipe-dream. It took a year to tackle the oyster farm purchase and strategize a way to corner stone the deal with the former oyster bay owner. Peeko was established in 2016. However, the first oyster available on the market wasn’t until 2017.
The Peeko process mirrors a mad science experiment. Stein buys baby oysters from hatcheries and then cultivates them out in his privately-owned underwater farm on 130 acres in Peconic Bay. He utilizes trays made out of wire mesh. During the high growing season, May through October, the oysters get shuffled through a cylinder contraption (think a Bingo wheel tumbler), once a month.
The purpose of this process is to sort the different oysters by size. Who would have known? Oysters prefer to grow alongside their same-size peers. Peeko oysters range from just shy of three inches to slightly larger.
The Peeko team implemented complex software in order to determine when precisely to harvest the oysters, progressively mixing technology with farming. This business isn’t for the wary: his team hits the waters nearly every week of the year, despite a few blistering weeks.
Not only does Stein distribute, but actually hand-delivers oysters to both Manhattan and local restaurants, traveling back and forth, several times per week.
Stein prides himself on his direct-to-chef sales model, which he believes cultivates a personal, feedback-driven and overall more loyal relationship. His passion doesn’t stop at the farming and selling stages. Stein is driven by educating and entertaining patrons in a casual “fishermen’s village” vibe.
For the past year, he has been transforming a quintessential shack not only to store and process the oysters, but to construct a tasting room and event space abutting the Peconic Bay marina, with a goal to host intimate events for oyster enthusiasts.
Showing off his more bourgeois side, he has collaborated with Gramercy Tavern and Tom Colicchio, of Craft, orchestrating multi-course dinners, where the oyster is the star in each dish.