Tofino will crown an inaugural oyster-shucking champion on Sunday, Nov. 27 as about 20 chefs from across the country gather at the Shore Pier for a high-energy Shucker’s Showdown.
Eamon Clark, Canada’s 10-time oyster shucking champion, will be in the house as Head Judge.
“(Clark) grew up in an oyster family. Basically, he started competing when he was really young. He’s won all over the world. He’s a professional oyster shucker and a champion,” said event co-organizer Ron Lee.
The format of the Shucker’s Showdown involves competitors squaring off in heats of two or three people and shucking 18 oysters. Once they finish shucking, all of their oysters will be graded by a judging panel.
“If you cut your finger and get blood in the oyster, that adds seconds to your time. If there is shell in the oyster, you get seconds added to your time. If the oyster is flipped upside down, that adds seconds to your time. If the knife cuts the meat of your oyster, that adds seconds to your time,” explains Lee.
To properly shuck an oyster without cutting the actual meat of the mollusk is quite a technique, Lee says.
First off, he says to hold the oyster with the flatter side up and the bottom in the palm on your hand. “Then you put your oyster knife in the hinge and you twist it like you’re starting a car, and then you slide your knife along the top of the oyster shell and you separate the oyster from the shell and then you go underneath the oyster and you have to separate the oyster from the shell on the bottom as well.”
Tofino’s top shucker will jet home with a $1,500 cash prize. Second place gets $1,000 and third walks away with $500.
Tickets to Tofino’s family-friendly Shuckers Showdown are about $25, and kids under 12 get in free.
“We will be talking to kids about oysters. These folks really just want to share their love (of oysters) and education,” said Lee, noting that there will also be an amateur shucking contest.
He offers the following pearls of wisdom for consuming oysters:
“For me, I learned early on, to eat the oyster and chew it so you actually get the flavour of it because if you just slurp it and swallow it down, you’re not going to get all the different flavours. Oysters are like wine. Different varieties are going to have different flavours based on the region they come from because they are filtering the environment,” he said.