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A Hero Nonetheless

October 31st, 2017

raz halili pic A Hero Nonetheless

Raz Halili of Prestige Oysters.

By George Dismukes

Over the years I have been fortunate enough to interview several people who were described as heroes. They all had one thing in common, none of them saw themselves as heroes.

At first, I thought it was modesty, but like so many things, it isn’t quite that simple. The best way to describe it is, danger doesn’t look the same when you’re outside looking in as it does when you are on the inside looking out.

To be sure, people who put their own well-being and safety aside in favor of helping their fellow man are in a special class of their own. Perhaps the most interesting part of all is, these special people walk among us and never declare themselves as being anything other than our neighbors and friends. I find that mind boggling. They deserve to wear a uniform or a badge, something that identifies them. But no.

Raz Halili fits this category. Following Hurricane Harvey he didn’t hesitate a moment to enter the breach, rescuing people first on his jet-ski, then later taking an oyster boat down the coast to Post Arthur where he engaged in rescuing hundreds of stranded people.

Was he in danger? Yes, absolutely. He must have known it, he was undaunted. This is called courage, the hallmark of a hero. So, although a vision of himself as a hero is invisible to him, he is a hero, none-the-less. Many TV stations, radio stations, newspapers and magazines apparently agree with me because he became an overnight sensation on all sorts of media, not just locally or nationally, but globally including being on every station in Albania, homeland of his father, Johnny Halili. Indeed, one lady on social media pegged him as a “hottie” and that went viral.

Amazingly none of this attention has gone to his head. As Heir Apparent to the Prestige Oyster empire, his focus is on running the family business, which he does quite well. Lisa, his mother is extremely proud of him, calling him a “good son.” But it’s the way she says it. You can tell, she’s bursting with pride. And ladies, I hate to tell you this, but Raz Halili is taken, off the market, not available. He has a long-time girlfriend to whom he is very devoted, so that’s that!

The old axiom is; “All glory is fleeting.” But in this case, not the hero. He’s just the same guy he was the day before the storm hit, and will be tomorrow. P.S. Look for this particular hero to appear in the movie The Bay House as the waiter.

Blueprint for the Great American Dream

September 6th, 2017

prestige oyster Blueprint for the Great American Dream

Lisa and Raz Halili of Prestige Oysters.

The story of Prestige Oysters

By K. Pica Kahn

halilis Blueprint for the Great American Dream

Johnny and Lisa Halili.

It is a love story,  and a story of the American dream. Johnny Halili, a little boy in Albania, never dreamed he would be an oyster mogul in the U.S. In the 1970s, coming from his home country to Chicago, he began his American work life in a car wash. Drifting from job to job, he heard from his cousin that there was work in Louisiana; so off he went.

Working on a boat for the first time, he was a deckhand and worked very hard for years. Eventually he bought his own oyster boat, the Lady Katherine, and that is when his successful American dream life began.

Prestige Oysters is a private family run business which continues with his best deckhand Lisa, who later became the love of his life and his wife. Working through all kinds of weather, they never gave up their dreams. The couple are now joined by their son Raz in this family owned and run business. The company has two full-time processing plants providing market for over 100 boats from Texas to Louisiana and Maryland.

The family was able to increase their business with the acquisition of the Quintus 350L high-pressure processing machine and CryoQuick tunnel to process oysters. In 2013, the company acquired Joey’s Oyster Company’s state of the art facility with HPP technology in Amite, Louisiana.

Rescue Bae

Raz Halili took to the flooded streets after Harvey to rescue people and animals alike. He has gained national attention after one of his rescue photos went viral. He has been affectionally dubbed ‘Rescue Bae.’

“HPP is one of the most clean and advanced food processing technologies. It is the size of a small room,” said Raz. “It does 1,200 oysters at a time in high pressure. We buy from other people, and we have our own boats. We also buy from independent contractors from South Texas up to Maryland. Oysters are a very popular appetizer. They are a delicacy – a romance between ocean and man ”

The High-Pressure process is a food processing method using water and elevated pressures to achieve consumer desired goals.  In 1990s, HPP emerged as a method of processing food, but not until the 21st century was it applied to seafood.

The advancements in HPP technology over recent decades have proved this method of food processing is of the highest quality. From fresh juice to meats and seafood, HPP neutralizes listeria, salmonella, E. coli and other deadly bacteria. Their Treasure Band oysters have undergone our High Pressure Process which reduces the Vibrio Vulnificus and Vibrio Paraheamolyticus to non-detectable levels.

The idea for the purchase of the multi million dollar machine was that of the father, according to Raz.

“He really saw the value in it, and so we bought one, and it has been a great asset for us.”

According to his mother Lisa, Raz took the business to a new level, when he approached the giant Sysco Foods.

“He was just this kid with an idea, and he made it happen,” said the proud mom. “We would have never even thought of it, but after college he came on the sales side of the business and this was his venture, and he took a chance and did it for us. It made all the difference. We are very proud of him. We were just simple wholesalers, and he took us to a whole new level.

Like his father before him, the son now 31, had a vision of where he wanted to take the company.  After pitching the idea to the seafood director at the time, he felt confident this was a program with a story behind it that could sell.

“We were able to supply a year-round supply of oysters at a competitive price, and we are the first ones to have a corporate level oyster program at Sysco,” said Raz. “It was a multimillion dollar investment, but we always want to change, grow and push our company to greater highest.”

Although the idea and the execution was the son’s idea, he says he learned so much from his father, from whom he got his work ethic.

“He taught me the meaning of hard work and dedication, always preaching to never take anything for granted, to help others and stay loyal to the ones who have helped you along the way. My family and I have a great appreciation of living in a free country, where you can fulfill your wildest dreams. Enjoy working hard and it will pay off.”