Eater announced its 50 Young Gun semifinalists Thursday after receiving more than 2,000 entries for 623 nominees from around the country. One lone Atlantan made the cut. He Ro—the man responsible for skillfully shucking the hundreds of oysters slurped nightly at Kimball House.
Each year Eater sets out to find the most talented people working in the restaurant industry under the age of 30 or with less than five years experience. The list of the industry’s rising stars range from chefs and bartenders to restaurateurs and bakers, and everyone in between.
He Ro, a member of the Karen people, moved to the United States from Burma when he was 15 years old. He began working at Kimball House when it opened in Decatur in 2013. The then 20-year-old Clarkston resident had never seen, let alone shucked, an oyster in his life. Five years later, 25-year-old He Ro says he’s shucked “maybe close to one million” oysters; making him an invaluable member of the best oyster bar in Georgia.
“I come in around 2 p.m. and make a cappuccino for myself and start by checking oyster menus and counts that we have for that day,” he explains of his daily duties. “I talk to whoever is making the menus and the manager so they can print the right oysters for the menus.”
When the doors open for happy hour at 5 p.m., He Ro is heads down shucking and plating oysters atop towers and trays for two hours straight. Once the crowds subside around 7 p.m., He Ro then helps with any kitchen prep needed between oyster orders. His day ends just after midnight after thoroughly cleaning and organizing the oyster station, only to do it all again the next day.
Here’s what Bryan Rackley, co-owner of Kimball House and co-founder of the nonprofit Oyster South, says about He Ro:
He Ro has set the standard at Kimball House for what it is to do your job perfectly. I’ve never seen anyone work so intently on being perfect in my life. But his effort to do perfect work is not just something he practices in solitude. He’s made it part of our culture. When he trains other staff members in the oyster bar, they get to experience first hand how calm, careful and precise he is. And, that attitude is something that is contagious at Kimball House. Whether it’s peeling potatoes or making a family meal, he cares about doing great work and contributing to the people around him.
He Ro is the most humble and least competitive person I’ve ever met. He does not think or act like he’s the best at anything. He’s simply committed to error-free work; and that’s why he’s so good. The visible work He Ro does is impressive, but the manner in which he works is part of the reason why Kimball House is so special to the people that work there.
“I love working at Kimball House, and want to keep running the oysters and spending my days with my teammates,” He Ro says of his future plans.
If chosen as a 2018 Eater Young Gun, He Ro will be the second Atlantan awarded the honor. Bartender Matt Welch was named an Eater Young Gun in 2016 for his cocktail and bar skills at the now shuttered Amer in Inman Park.
The finalists will be announced in late July.