Houston Restaurant Tycoon Jumps Into the Caviar Craze, Harvests His Own For B&B Butchers, More Hotspots
Ben Berg Embraces Custom Caviar With the Help of a QueenBY Shelby Hodge // 07.13.21
Berg Hospitality Group's Benjamin Berg and Sean Mohammed outfitted for catching white sturgeon at the California Caviar Company. (Photo by Carly Shuttlesworth)
Starting Saturday Berg Hospitality Group's custom caviar will be available at B&B Butcher's & Restaurant in both Houston and Fort Worth. (Photo by Daniel Ortiz)
Sturgeon roe, destined for Berg Hospitality Group caviar, being cleaned at the California Caviar Company. (Photo by Carly Shuttlesworth)
The Annie Café & Bar caviar debuts on the menu on Saturday with a special afternoon tea and caviar (plus champagne) service. (Photo by Daniel Ortiz)
Vast amounts of sturgeon roe are carefully processed before placed in tins at the California Caviar Company for Berg Hospitality Group. (Photo by Carly Shuttlesworth)
Turner's debuts its custom caviar on Sunday in honor of National Caviar Day with a special six-course dinner. (Photo by Daniel Ortiz)
The team processes sturgeon roe at the California Caviar Company, the roe soon to be transformed into caviar for Berg Hospitality Group in Houston. (Photo by (Photo by Carly Shuttlesworth)
Restaurateur Benjamin Berg didn’t need a special foodie holiday to introduce the latest addition to his ever-expanding Berg Hospitality Group empire. But this weekend, with National Caviar Day on Sunday, it seemed the most logical time to celebrate his custom Royal White Sturgeon Caviar — Idah0-sourced sturgeon caviar that Berg harvested, processed and curated himself with the aid of California Caviar Company.
Beginning Saturday, this special caviar will become a menu staple at B&B Butchers in both Houston and Fort Worth and at Houston’s Turner’s and The Annie Café & Bar.
Excited about the debut and in honor of National Caviar Day, Berg has planned two special introductions of his caviar. The Annie Café & Bar will hold “The Ultimate High Tea & Caviar” service on Saturday with a single seating at 2 pm. Participants can choose from a $95 or a $145 tier. Music will be provided by Flashdrive, a string quartet accompanied by a DJ. The full menu and details can be found here.
On Sunday, Turner’s will offer a six-course wine and caviar pairing dinner beginning at 5:30 pm. Curated by Turner’s chef de cuisine Jose Valencia, the dinner costs $395 per person excluding tax, gratuity and any additional alcoholic beverages. There will be live piano music provided by Barry Sames. With only one seating, space is limited to 40 guests. Reservations and further details can be found here.
Ben Berg’s Caviar Obsession
Berg’s interest in producing his own caviar began with the surge in caviar sales at Turner’s and The Annie in early 2021 and after learning about a California chef who branded his own caviar through California Caviar Company, which is owned and operated by Deborah “Caviar Queen” Keane.
“We started thinking about this four or five months ago. It was really before we saw how much caviar was selling,” Berg tells PaperCity. “I thought it would be amazing if we did this here.”
So in May, Berg and Sean Mohammed, vice president of concept development for Berg Hospitality Group, traveled to Idaho to harvest the brand’s first supply of custom Royal White Sturgeon caviar. In the effort, the duo learned the sometimes grueling and always precise process from start to finish. With the aid of Keane, Berg was able to create his own unique sturgeon caviar.
They were led through caviar tastings — caviar of different ages, from different rivers, caviars from Europe — to ultimately discern what they wanted in their brand.
Then from sucking a small sample of eggs from the belly of the sturgeon via a special straw and sampling to the “back breaking” work of cleaning the eggs and picking out the impurities, Berg and Mohammed, both suited up in sterile protective gear, joined the cleaning process. The eggs must be washed through five layers of cleaning with the work taking place in a 34-degree temperature-controlled room.
“Once you have everything cleaned, this is where the magic happens,” Berg says. “She (Keane) teaches us. This is where it becomes our custom, in the brining process.
“How they brine. How they know when to pull out of the brine. How much salt is used, which is based on the flavor and then what we are going for, the taste we are going for.
“That’s when it becomes our custom caviar.”
The eggs are inspected again and the caviar packed tightly into large cans where it ferments for a number of weeks before is is put in smaller cans for the restaurants.
“Really good,” Berg says when asked how it tastes. “It has the beluga color, that kind of grayish blue. We have big balls. It’s definitely very crisp, kind of clean tasting. It has a nice light brine on it. It’s a nice caviar to cook with as well to add on to dishes. It won’t overpower anything.”
Berg was so enthralled with the process that he is planning for customers a weekend Caviar Camp in California in the fall when Berg Hospitality harvests its next round of caviar for its Texas restaurants.