Top Chef Colleton River Club chef Robert Wysong is a Maryland native and a graduate of Charleston’s prestigious Johnson & Wales University.
In January in the Lowcountry, we are so fortunate to be able to be able to enjoy what’s right here in our backyard – oysters! But what is more than an oyster roast or oysters on the half shell? Enter this sentimental dish brought to us by Chef Robert Wysong, of Colleton River Club, that was passed down to him from his mother, Kitty Wysong, a Savannah native.
This escalloped oysters recipe is so special that it’s only made once per year at Thanksgiving or Christmas. It even has its own dish, not used for anything else, in which the dish is thoughtfully served at the Wysong household. It’s carefully stored in the same place each year, too. Like many old family recipes, this dish is clearly about more than the food itself.
“There’s a sense that my mother is still here with us,” Wysong said. “She grew up in Savannah, and I love that I can be here and feel close to her. I remember growing up and helping her in the kitchen, getting organized, setting up and breaking down. She was a school teacher who had dinner on the table by 6 p.m. every night.”
This time-honored tradition of serving this dish is now enjoyed by extended family year after year (and now, we hope, LOCAL Life readers). What makes it so delicious is its simplicity but also its richness. The butter and cream tells your brain, “mmmm … this is so good!” and it’s perfectly mixed with the briny oyster. “To me,” says Chef Robert, “it’s just an incredible combination.”
Chef Robert has been with the prestigious Colleton River Club for more than eight years. They recently refinished the Nicklaus Clubhouse and re-outfitted his kitchen, something he is thrilled about. He draws his inspiration from local and in-season staples – like oysters. During COVID, he and his team at Colleton River Club have become resourceful and creative about entertaining and dining. From the commissary that they built to provide residents with fresh fruit, vegetables, meats, and pre-made meals to smaller oyster roasts, they are finding innovative ways to delight with food.
What’s next for Chef Robert at Colleton River Club?
“We’re thrilled at what is ahead,” says Chef Robert. “We’re on top of our food and finding inspiration all over. Of course, I always draw on my roots too. Any good chef does.”
Thoughtfully prepared dishes with history and sentimentality will always be more than just something to eat. Whether it’s this Wysong Escalloped Oyster recipe, or one that your family has passed down to you, this season be sure to take some time to enjoy something treasured.
Wysong family recipe
As prepared by Katherine S. Wysong and family, from a recipe by Helen B. Whiting, written November 15, 1967.
1 pint fresh jarred oysters
1/4 cup oyster jar liquid
1 stick of butter
1 cup cracker crumbs
1/2 cup soft breadcrumbs, no crusts
1/4 cup half and half
 Melt butter. Add oyster liquor and cream.  Arrange oysters in buttered, shallow, baking dish, in alternate layers with the cracker crumbs.  Add soft breadcrumbs to butter and liquid mixture, add seasonings, and pour over all. Add some crumbs over the top.  Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Enjoy!