With names like Saskia and Petra, you’d think the founders of The Caviar Company, the Bergstein sisters, were born with pearl spoons in their hands. That’s not the case for the young pretty blondes, who are half Dutch, but actually from Lubbock, Texas. Four years ago they had never tasted caviar. “I thought I was going to be selling hearing aids,” Petra, the younger, yet taller sister, told Haute Living on a recent afternoon at the Maritime Tasting Studio in North Beach. However, life happened: an internship with Coastal Luxury Management, the group behind the Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival, lead Petra to a job at a caviar farm in Sacramento.
She immediately fell in love with science behind sustainably raised caviar. “I love the science behind it; it’s kind of what sucked me into it,” she said. “Learning how the fish are farmed, how they are raised, what they eat, what affects the egg, what makes a quality caviar. All of that is what sucked me in.” You can hear the passion and excitement in her voice as she described her initial experience with farm-raised sturgeon. “The marine biologist and I got to do biopsies on the sturgeon where you put little holes in their bellies and get some eggs in your hand,” she said. “You taste the eggs straight out of the fish to see how the fish is coming along. We would be in these tanks wrestling these sturgeon—they are big, too, they get up to 250 lbs.” It turned out that she enjoys all aspects of the caviar industry, from the farming to distribution to consumption.
Meanwhile, Saskia, the business brain of the Caviar Company, was running her own consulting firm and one of her clients included the farm where Petra worked. “I’m a CPA that’s been rescued by caviar,” Saskia joked. “I was scattered all over doing consulting and I wanted to dedicate my time to focusing on one cause. That’s when Petra and I started talking about building our own brand and getting into the distribution side of things.” They partner with a co-packer who has the proper permits and packing equipment necessary for high grade caviar. They transformed Saskia’s consulting firm’s office, which is in a building of law offices, into their caviar distribution company’s home. “We do have a commercial grade refrigerator in a law office,” Petra said, unable to control herself from giggling.
The sisters founded the Caviar Company only eight months ago, but have already established themselves as a leading distributor of caviar. They offer 12 different types, from classic California white sturgeon caviar to imperial Russian osetra caviar to smoked trout roe. The Bergsteins personally deliver caviar to chefs and restaurants in San Francisco—their client list includes Leo’s Oyster Bar, Flour + Water, Californios, 25 Lusk, and Cala. They also understand that caviar is an acquired taste and that young people, who are unfamiliar with it, might not want to spend a fortune on caviar. That’s why all of their caviar is available in 10 gram tins—a sampler size that many distributors don’t offer.
Their delicious product, active Instagram account, and Texas charm is making waves in the luxury circles of San Francisco. They threw a packed party in honor of National Caviar Day at 25 Lusk. They served caviar backstage at Outside Lands. At the Symphony Gala’s after party, they had the longest line of people eager to get a taste of their salty, burst-in-your-mouth black pearls. Earlier this month, Gordon Getty invited them to serve caviar on a private plane trip to Moscow for an event with the Russian National Orchestra. The sisters are grateful for how the small caviar community has embraced them and know this is just the beginning of what they’re hoping will be a long and prosperous life in caviar. “One day, we’d love to have a tasting room where people can come in and do pairings,” Petra said at the end of our conversation, her voice filled with hope. “It would be almost like a lounge and have a happy hour feel, but that is the five or 10-year plan. It’s a dream.”