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An Oyster Shucker's Tour


Oyster Guy
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This thread will eventually encompass all 3 forums across the Canada section as I spent the summer travelling across the country and shucked my way from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

The Beginning.

"Get out of my way, I'm leaving this town."

Colin James- Chicks and cars and the third world war

Having grown tired and bored of life in the ski resort of Whistler, I felt the call of the open road pull on my soul.

I decided to undertake an ambitious goal. I was going to travel to Prince Edward Island and shuck oysters at every notable oyster bar in the country until I reached Vancouver.

I emailed my oyster shucking brother-from-another-mother, John Bil, who had just opened his new oyster house in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and asked if he could use a hand for the summer.

His response was immediate and positive and so I booked my flight and on July 10, I arrived on the red sands of P.E.I., ready to begin my oyster odessy.

I was totally impressed with John's new digs, The Claddagh Oyster House on Sydney St. Cool, funky and cozy, it was everything a true oyster house should be.

62 seats, including a 12 seat oyster bar with a great interior.

John Bil is probably one of the nicest guys you will ever run across in this world, (unless you happen to be an oyster) and put me up at his place for the duration of my stay there.

Sitting at the bar, I treated myself to my first taste of P.E.I. that I had had since 1997. 6 Colville Bay oysters, 6 Portage Island oysters and a heaping bowl of soft shell steamer clams.

Life doesn't get much better with all your clothes on.

The first time I was ever in P.E.I., I was 11 years old and it was at that time, I got my first taste of lobster.

It was at a St. Ann's church lobster supper held in the basement. Red and White checkered tablecloths, the smell of boiling lobster in the air and the anticipation of trying something that I had never had before.

It was an intoxicating experience that I will never forget in my life.

I was looking forward to having new and exciting experiences while I was down here again and I wasn't disappointed.

John's partners, Liam and Kim Dolan came over and introduced themselves to me and they are probably 2 of the best people I have ever met in my life.

They offered use of their hot tub and swimming pool while I was on the island and gave me a feeling that I was immediately accepted as part of their family.

The next day, John and I did an impromtu catering job on a boat half a mile offshore in Holland Cove and the mercury that day soared to an unbelievable 41 degrees celcius!

Between shucking oysters, John and I were diving into the cool blue waters of the Northumberland Strait and chatting and drinking with some of the movers and shakers in Charlottetown.

Before too long, there was a flotilla of at least 8 boats all tied together and at least 20 people had joined our little party out on the water.

Someone joked that if we could get a few more boats, we could walk back to Charlottetown.

It was beautiful to watch the sun setting over the red sand cliffs and green rolling fields. Having lived in the mountains for 10 years, I hadn't really seen a sunset as we only get alpenglow.

The next day was my first working shift on the oyster bar.

Looking over the menu and wine list, I was totally impressed with the food items and especially the wine list that John and Liam had put together.

Over 70 wines on the list and if you have ever been to the liquor stores in that province, you would know how hard it is to do something like that as the government-run stores have a very limited list.

I met the kitchen crew for the first time and was impressed to see that 95% of them had completed their culinary degrees and looked like seasoned pros.

If you would like to check his place out, the website is www.claddaghoysterhouse.com.

Seeing as I am not on my computer and limited for time, I will be posting my story in installments and I will be posting the pictures a little later.

Edited by Oyster Guy (log)

"Why then, the world is mine oyster, which I with sword, shall open."

William Shakespeare-The Merry Wives of Windsor

"An oyster is a French Kiss that goes all the way." Rodney Clark

"Oyster shuckers are the rock stars of the shellfish industry." Jason Woodside

"Obviously, if you don't love life, you can't enjoy an oyster."

Eleanor Clark

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cool Oyster Guy

I am looking foward to more

I was on the East coast in 1983

the seafood was good and cheap

the pub food there at the time rocked

I was on a rugby trip and we did a serious lob fest on PEI

we did PEI- the Rock- NB- NS-

steve

Cook To Live; Live To Cook
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Part 2

My first customer sits down at the oyster bar and he reaches over and starts to play with the oysters in the bed and looking them over closely which always suggests to me that he has more than a passing knowledge of the product.

Or he could just be a bit of a smart ass.

He picked up a Colville Bay oyster and asks me to explain about it.

I tell him how they are grown by Johnny Flynn and are raised in a rack and bag method in Souris, P.E.I and they are probably the best damm oyster on the Eastern Seaboard.

I notice that the young girl he is with is chuckling to herself and while I am wondering why, he reaches over the bar and says, "You can stop now. I'm Johnny Flynn."

It turns out I was right on both counts.

He knows the oyster and he is a smart ass as well. :laugh:

What a way to start your shift.

During the evening, the kitchen continues to impress me with both their proficency and the presentation.

I walked back at one point when they had a full rack of bills and you couldn't tell from looking at them that they were busy at all.

That's the sure sign of pros.

I felt the discomfort of working a new bar which is normal when starting at a new place but the staff went out of their way to make me feel at home and they were very patient with my fumbling fingers at the terminal.

I felt no such discomfort when shucking though.

To me, an oyster is a touchstone.

When my left hand is on one, I am ten feet tall and bulletproof.

In the next few weeks, I feel more at home at the bar than I did at the Bearfoot Bistro in the first year I worked there.

John and I did a few catering gigs during my stay there but the most memorable one was the one for the Canadian Medical Association at the University of P.E.I.

We had a very tight timetable and 1000 oysters to shuck.

The guests arrived at 6:00 p.m. and we had to be packed and gone by 7:00.

Pretty tight for anyone's liking.

John, Mark (the general manager) and I preshucked a couple of dozen and when the guests started to arrive is when it really hit the fan.

John and I exchanged a knowing look and he raised his hands above his shoulders as we are required to do in a shucking contest and smiled at me.

I did the same and then we went at them with a vengance.

We were moving at incredible speed and people were standing around just watching us, including a few culinary students from the college.

I heard their instructor say to them at one point.

"Even though I showed you how to do this in class, watch these guys as they are the real pros."

I felt a sense of pride in hearing that and really ramped up the speed while still keeping the oysters clean.

John and Mark and I went through the entire 1000 in just 59 minutes from start to finish! :cool:

I will be getting my computer hooked to the internet in the next couple of days and

then I can make some real progress on this story.

"Why then, the world is mine oyster, which I with sword, shall open."

William Shakespeare-The Merry Wives of Windsor

"An oyster is a French Kiss that goes all the way." Rodney Clark

"Oyster shuckers are the rock stars of the shellfish industry." Jason Woodside

"Obviously, if you don't love life, you can't enjoy an oyster."

Eleanor Clark

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hey O.G., what up....

should you be passing MTL, come shuck up north to Tremblant.

you could re-join fred and Vlad in kitchen....and tell me where I can get west coast oysters here.

happy travels

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  • 1 month later...

Finally, I'm back on the net!

First, I'd like to post a few pictures.

My buddy John Bil's licence plate. (Yes, all oyster shuckers are a little crazy)

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This is Holland Cove, located just south of Charlottetown harbour and the site of our impromptu oyster catering job for some of the locals.

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This is the boat we shucked the oysters on. It was a real tough job as you can see.

That is John with the beer in his hand :laugh:

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Another one of the flotilla of boats at Holland Cove.

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After that long hot day of such hard work, I was glad to see the sun going down in

the west.

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Twilight on Queen Street, Charlottetown.

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The next day, I wandered around a little bit and took a couple of pics.

These are some of the houses in my "hood."

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It was nice to be only about 200 feet from the ocean all summer as well.

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The thing I appreciated about Charlottetown was the buildings. You very rarely see any buildings older than 100 years old here on the West Coast.

This is Confederation House where our great nation was born.

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This is the Basicilica located in downtown Charlottetown. Like many towns in the East, there are an abundance of churches here.

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I took a couple of shots of my soon-to-be workplace and was getting hungry for lunch.

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I decided to try the brew pub across the street known as The Gahan House.

They brew their own beers and they are very good at it.

I suggest that you try the Honey Brown when sitting at their bar.

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Of course, I always like a seat at the bar.

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The menu was varied but I went for a traditional meal.

A club house sandwich with a spinach salad.

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Speaking of which, I'm getting hungry right now.

Back later.

Keep on shucking

Oyster Guy

"Why then, the world is mine oyster, which I with sword, shall open."

William Shakespeare-The Merry Wives of Windsor

"An oyster is a French Kiss that goes all the way." Rodney Clark

"Oyster shuckers are the rock stars of the shellfish industry." Jason Woodside

"Obviously, if you don't love life, you can't enjoy an oyster."

Eleanor Clark

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My trip to the farm.

(Oyster farm, of course)

Being down in the home of the mighty Malpeque oyster, there was no way I wasn't going to pay a visit to an oyster farm while I was here.

I decided to go and visit Johnny Flynn who farms the incredible Colville Bay oyster in Souris, P.E.I.

I had a couple of travelling companions for this trip out to the northeastern tip of the island.

David Christian (exec chef at Chez Victor in Toronto), Ivy Knight (writer for Gremalota and also The Daily Gullet and sous chef as well) and her husband, Kerry hooked up with me in Charlottetown and we headed out to visit with Johnny.

In keeping with a proper road trip, everyone was severely hung over from the night before, they from a wedding, me from a night out with the bartenders at the Dublin Pub.

Ryan and Soupy, I have still not forgiven you for that night!

The day was, of course, windy and rainy. Perfect weather to be near the water.....not!

For those who might have seen it, Johnny was the oyster fisherman who appeared on The Mercer Report on the CBC that aired around this time last year.

We arrived just in time for the worst of the weather and Johnny remarked that our timing, like most oystermen, was perfect. Always the smartass..................

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We had to take the traditional picture with the sign.

As soon as we got inside the oyster plant, I noticed the seed collectors that Johnny had put out earlier in the season to collect the oyster spat when the oysters were spawning. This allows the fishermen to replenish his beds and allows more oysters to survive that first tough year.

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When I commented on the quantity of spat collected, Johnny ran and got an oyster shell that had been in the estuary during the spawning season.

He explained that there had been a huge natural set of oysters that year due to the warm water conditions and when I examined the shell, I saw what he meant.

All the black objects you see on the shell are baby oysters (spat) and the shell is about 6 inches long and I stopped counting when I got to 100.

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Johnny had some oysters ready to ship off to some of the finest restaurants and parties across Canada, well almost ready.

My mouth watered looking at this wealth of shellfish.

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We walked out to the beds and took a look over Johnny's method of aquaculture.

Johnny uses what is known as a "rack and bag" method of cultivation in which the oysters are placed into a Vexar (made by Dupont) bag where they are protected from predators, such as crabs and starfish.

The Vexar bags with the oysters are then placed on a small metal rack made of rebar which keeps the bags about 3 to 5 inches off the sandy bottom.

This prevents the oysters from being suffocated by silt or mud flowing into the estuary that they are raised in.

It also allows the phytoplankton that the oysters feed on to pass freely through the small holes in the mesh of the bag.

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Johnny was telling about the explosion of mussel farms in the river and how the oysters were having to seriously compete for the same food source and the appearence of a couple of oyster parasites were not helping matters any that year.

He went to bag and opening it, he pulled out a handful of yearling oysters.

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We were starving at this point so we thanked Johnny for taking the time to show us around his operation and we took off to St. Peter's Bay and the home of the best fish and chips on P.E.I.

The weather hadn't improved at all during this whole time and we arrived in St. Peter's Bay under the same cloud cover.

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The best fish and chips are available at Rick's Fish and Chips and Seafood House.

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I went for the fish and chips and a side order of clam strips while Ivy opted for a scallop burger.

We all needed a good meal under the belts and couldn't wait for the food to arrive.

My mouth was watering when they finally brought the food to us.

Fresh haddock, hand cut chips and homemade cole slaw, now that's comfort food!

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Ivy was equally thrilled with her scallop burger.

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After all that, it was home for a nap.

I would like to thank the following people.

David Christian (for being the driver and listening to my bad jokes)

Kerry (for being Kerry)

Ivy Knight. I was very impressed with this lady's knowledge of the oyster and she and her husband were a laugh riot to hang out with.

I also would like to thank Johnny Fynn for his time and effort.

Keep on shucking

Oyster Guy

p.s. more to follow..........

Edited by Oyster Guy (log)

"Why then, the world is mine oyster, which I with sword, shall open."

William Shakespeare-The Merry Wives of Windsor

"An oyster is a French Kiss that goes all the way." Rodney Clark

"Oyster shuckers are the rock stars of the shellfish industry." Jason Woodside

"Obviously, if you don't love life, you can't enjoy an oyster."

Eleanor Clark

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While I was in Prince Edward Island, I was astounded at the number of papered chefs that I found in most of the kitchens down there.

This is due in part to having a couple of culinary colleges and the university is also offering culinary courses as well.

When I last visited P.E.I. in 1997, I was less than impressed with the food being offered.

There is still a lot of pub food down here but the quality everywhere has risen dramatically.

There are quite a few really good restaurants in Charlottetown and if you are ever down there, these are a few you should try.

The Pilot House.

The Merchantman Pub

The Maple Grille

The Claddagh Oyster House (of course)

This is not by anyways taking away from the rest of the island either.

The Dunes in Dundrave

Carr's Oyster Bar in Stanley Bridge

Rick's Fish N Chips and Seafood House in St Peter's Bay

Dayboat in Oyster Bed Bridge

I really think the East Coast of Canada has been largely ignored when it comes to the culinary arts.

There are a lot of talented young chefs coming out of the schools down here who don't wish to travel to Toronto, Calgary or Vancouver for work.

They would rather stay where they were born and raised and this isn't a bad thing.

It just means that if you want to experience their talents, you are going to have to make an effort to get down to their part of the world.

And it is certainly worth the trip.

The freshest seafood, great produce and cooking talent all add up to a great dining experience.

One place that is a can't miss is Dayboat just outside of Charlottetown in Oyster Bed Bridge.

Gordon Bailey is Dayboat's young chef and he is very talented.

The restaurant is located in some beautiful country and on a nice summer day, there is no better place to be than on the deck.

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Dayboat is open for lunch and dinner and they make the most incredible lobster sandwiches you will ever eat.

The summer seemed to fly by for me as time will when you are having entirely too much fun and soon September was upon us and it was time for the P.E.I. Shellfish Festival.

My first indication was the invitation I received for The Shucker's Ball.

The directions for the party are printed upside down on a t-shirt so that you can read it while wearing it.

It is also handy as oyster shuckers (sometimes) have a wee bit too much to drink and would lose any written instructions.

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I also noticed that John had stocked in some drinks for his oyster soiree.

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The P.E.I. Shellfish Festival is a can't miss event. It was my first time attending this event even though it has been going for 11 years now and I was totally impressed with it!

It is a truly world class event. I have been to shellfish festivals all over North America and I have been to The Galway Oyster Festival in Ireland but they all pale in comparison.

If you would like to check out the line-up, you can visit their website at www.peishellfish.com

This year held a couple of new events at the festival.

The first J.P.'s Shellfish World Invitational Oyster Shucking Championships.

Oyster shuckers from all over North America and Europe came to compete in this first ever competition.

In the days before the festival, oyster shuckers started to arrive from all over the compass.

One of the first to arrive was Robert Daffin of Dusty's Oyster Bar in Panama City Beach, Florida along with his "Momma."

Yes, his real mom. I first met Robert and "Mamma" in Toronto at the North American Oyster Shucking Championships and we had hit off like a house on fire.

It was great to see them again and "Mamma" gave us a demonstration of her oyster eating talents at the Claddagh Oyster House. (Mamma had won the oyster eating contest the year before.

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"Mamma" ate 24 oysters in 22 seconds in this shot!

John had to accomodate all us oyster shuckers and decided to give us our own "compound" at Home from Away Cottages on the shores of Tracadie Bay, just about 20 minutes outside of Charlottetown.

We all felt like rock stars as we had a compound and even a shuttle service to take us back and forth from town, even all access passes to the festival!

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It was fantastic! 6 cottages with no-one else around us.

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We even had our own lighthouse! Lol!

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The location was beautiful on the shore of Tracadie Bay (pronounced track a dee)

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More later on the festival and the Shucker's Ball!

Keep on shucking

Oyster Guy

"Why then, the world is mine oyster, which I with sword, shall open."

William Shakespeare-The Merry Wives of Windsor

"An oyster is a French Kiss that goes all the way." Rodney Clark

"Oyster shuckers are the rock stars of the shellfish industry." Jason Woodside

"Obviously, if you don't love life, you can't enjoy an oyster."

Eleanor Clark

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I love oysters. It's oyster season right now in Korea Yey! I love your oyster pics and tour. Keem em coming! LIke what you said, those oysters in the basket are making me drool....

Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

eGFoodblog: Adobo and Fried Chicken in Korea

The dark side... my own blog: A Box of Jalapenos

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The Shucker's Ball 2006

It was a very peaceful start to what was going to be a long, crazy day.

I decided to stay out at the cottages in Tracadie Bay with Robert Daffin and his mom to get a break from being in Charlottetown and have a chance to "chill with my homies."

Robert and I had stayed up late drinking and talking about, what else, oysters and oyster shucking!

(Gee, I wonder why I'm single, LOL)

We noticed the sky had started to turn lighter so we walked out and watched the sunrise above the shores of Tracadie Bay.

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It was worth staying up late to see it.

We noticed that our mussel supplies for the party had arrived late in the night and we went to bed to get a least a couple of hours sleep.

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I was blown away by the list of competitors that had arrived for the shucking contest.

I had some major competition to go against in this one and the only thing that made me less nervous about it was that everyone had major competition not just me.

We had William "Chopper" Young from Wellfleet, Mass. where he owns and operates the Wellfleet Oyster Company.

Pat McMurray and Lawrence David from Starfish in Toronto. (Pat is a 5 time Cdn. Champ and former World Champion oyster shucker)

Simeron Novack and Eamonn Clark from Rodney's Oyster House in Toronto. Eamonn had placed 2nd in the Cdn Championships this year and Simeron has always been a kick ass shucker.

Michaell Moran of Moran's Oyster Cottage By The Weir in Kilcogan, Ireland was there.

Michaell is an 8th generation oyster shucker and I met his dad and his uncle when I was in Ireland in 1993.

(Michaell went on to win the World's Championships in Galway 2 weeks after this event)

Dieter Berner was there from Germany. ( A former World Champ as well)

Josh Bishop, owner/operator of The Whalesbone Oyster House in Ottawa.

Xavier Caille, European Speed Shucking Champion from Paris, France.

Robert Daffin from Dusty's Oyster Bar in Panama City Beach, Florida, winner of the Florida State Championships 2 times (Correct me if I am wrong on that, Robert)

Phyllis Carr, owner/operator of Carr's Oyster Bar in Stanley Bridge, P.E.I.

Bob "Oyster Bob" Skinner from Joe Forte's in Vancouver was there.

Ian Peck from The Pure Spirits Pub in Toronto.

Per Olofson from Sweden was there. (Per is a former World Champ as well)

Jason Woodside, reigning Cdn Champ from Oyster Boy in Toronto was here.

Sussie and Bobo Agfemalur from Sweden were there. Sussie is the European Women's Champion and Bobo is no slouch either.

Patrick Benson from Globe Restaurant in Montreal had shown up along with Dean Maclean from Oakville, Ontario.

And of course, the organizer and 3 time Canadian and 2 time North American Oyster Shucking Champ, John Walter Bil! The man with 3 first names!

Even though I have been in well over 50 competitions, this one was making me extremely nervous.

I worked that night at The Claddagh Oyster House for John as he had too much to do with the festival and I had come down there to help him out.

Some of the boys came into see me over the course of the night and hung out at the oyster bar. (Where else?)

We stuck our knives into the bar and took some pics.

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Mamma had started to cook her famous gumbo the night before and when we got out to the cottage, it smelled so good, my mouth started watering!

She called out that she needed about 100 oysters for her gumbo and did anyone in our crowd know how to shuck them.

We fought over the chance to get some more practice in before the event and the box of oysters was soon decimated.

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The grisly remains....

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It also gave me a chance to examine Pat McMurray's custom made oyster knife.

I want to get Pat to make one for me one day when he gets a chance.

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Pat made one of these for Anthony Bourdain when he was in Toronto.

Well, the drinks were flowing like mad and of course, being down East, a kitchen party broke out. And what a party!

Moonshine was passed around and things got nuts!

Xavier wandered in wondering what all the noise was about.

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It didn't take long for him to get into the whole swing of the party and soon, Xavier was seranading us with French songs while Rob Pendergast played the fiddle.

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All the boys were in the kitchen. A usual happening at parties down here or anywhere for that matter. I did notice that all the shuckers hung out while the other guests stuck to themselves.

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They must have thought we were a little too nuts for them, I guess.

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Michaell showed us that oyster shucking was not his only talent and played not only the fiddle but guitar as well and had a great voice to boot.

And who says oyster shuckers aren't multi-taskers?

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He jammed with Rob Pendergast.

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Oyster Bob came stumbling in to check things out with his always present bottle of Kokanee in his hand.

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I got to get a coffee and feed the cat and the fish right now.

More later.......

Keep on shucking

Oyster Guy

Edited by Oyster Guy (log)

"Why then, the world is mine oyster, which I with sword, shall open."

William Shakespeare-The Merry Wives of Windsor

"An oyster is a French Kiss that goes all the way." Rodney Clark

"Oyster shuckers are the rock stars of the shellfish industry." Jason Woodside

"Obviously, if you don't love life, you can't enjoy an oyster."

Eleanor Clark

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Glad to see you are finally getting your photos up. Did you end up getting one of the marrow Fred served us at Joe Beef that night? Yum, I'm drooling just thinking about it. Keep up with the stories and let us know when you're back in la Belle Province.

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This is a very interesting subculture indeed. You lot definitely know how to party.

Just how big of an event is this? Who's funding it? Are there sponsors, entry fees? Is there a cash purse for the winner or just the trophy and bragging rights? All these entrants that come from far away, do they pay for their own travel expenses?

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This is a very interesting subculture indeed. You lot definitely know how to party.

Just how big of an event is this? Who's funding it? Are there sponsors, entry fees? Is there a cash purse for the winner or just the trophy and bragging rights? All these entrants that come from far away, do they pay for their own travel expenses?

The PEI Shellfish Festival is getting bigger every year. They had an estimated 12,000 visitors for this year's festival.

I want to say that the volunteers for the event were simply amazing!

It is truly a world class event and deserves worldwide attention.

The comittee who organizes the whole event are unpaid and work very hard to put the whole thing on. I barely saw John Bil the entire event except during the contest.

The seafood could not be any fresher unless you caught it and the people are fantastic.

There is a group of sponsors that are listed on their website (www.peishellfish.com) and the provincial and federal governments kick in some cash to put it on.

There is a 10 dollar entry fee for competitors.

They offer a 2000 dollar first prize, along with the trophy and resulting bragging rights.

Yes, everyone pays their own way to compete which says volumes about the dedication to their craft.

And yes, we do know how to party!

Keep on shucking

Oyster Guy

p.s. An oyster shucking friend was once asked by a reporter what made a good oyster shucker.

He replied that a good oyster shucker can handle a sharp instrument and hold his liquor at the same time! :laugh:

Edited by Oyster Guy (log)

"Why then, the world is mine oyster, which I with sword, shall open."

William Shakespeare-The Merry Wives of Windsor

"An oyster is a French Kiss that goes all the way." Rodney Clark

"Oyster shuckers are the rock stars of the shellfish industry." Jason Woodside

"Obviously, if you don't love life, you can't enjoy an oyster."

Eleanor Clark

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Glad to see you are finally getting your photos up.  Did you end up getting one of the marrow Fred served us at Joe Beef that night?  Yum, I'm drooling just thinking about it.  Keep up with the stories and let us know when you're back in la Belle Province.

Hi Vanessa,

Hope that you are keeping warm!!!!!

Yes, I did post those pictures in the Joe Beef thread on this forum and it includes a pic of that beautiful mouth watering marrow bone that Fred and Kaunteya served us that night.

Nice to hear from you.

I will be letting you know when I am back in my favourite city in all Canada.

Take good care

Keep on shucking

Oyster Guy

"Why then, the world is mine oyster, which I with sword, shall open."

William Shakespeare-The Merry Wives of Windsor

"An oyster is a French Kiss that goes all the way." Rodney Clark

"Oyster shuckers are the rock stars of the shellfish industry." Jason Woodside

"Obviously, if you don't love life, you can't enjoy an oyster."

Eleanor Clark

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Outstanding.

Love those custom knives. I see one made of antler. The shucking post is new to me - excellent design.

I think the prize$$$ is too low for 12k visitors. People coming from Sweden and Ireland pay more than $2k to get to PEI I imagine. From the looks of things, it will only grow as the festival gets better organized.

Can't wait for more!! :smile:

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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More of the Ball...........................................

One of the many things that I love about being in oyster shucking competitions is the sense of camaradarie that just naturally happens between oyster shuckers.

It doesn't matter where we are from, what language we speak, we all share a (un)common passion and a deep devotion to our craft.

We all get along very well together. (With the help of a little social lubrication):laugh:

These are 2 of my "homies" from Toronto.

Ian Peck, who shucks at Pure Spirits and Paul Petcoff, who is the general manager at Oyster Boy and a very old friend of mine from back in the day.

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One of my co-workers from The Claddagh Oyster House showed up after she got off work and Aimee quickly made herself at home with us crazy oyster people.

She totally impressed us all with her charm, beauty, height and moonshine drinking abilities!

I gave her my Shucker's Ball t-shirt and she proceeded to get every oyster shucker to sign it for her as a souvenier.

Here's her caging an autograph off of Josh Bishop from The Whalebone in Ottawa.

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Of course, there was the usual carnage that happens when you mix alcohol and oyster shuckers. Empty beer bottles, oyster shells, sender horns and Mason jars.

Yes, they still package moonshine in those!

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I will be adding more to this later as I have a lot of stuff to do today.

I am enjoying your comments! Please keep them coming.

Keep on shucking

Oyster Guy

"Why then, the world is mine oyster, which I with sword, shall open."

William Shakespeare-The Merry Wives of Windsor

"An oyster is a French Kiss that goes all the way." Rodney Clark

"Oyster shuckers are the rock stars of the shellfish industry." Jason Woodside

"Obviously, if you don't love life, you can't enjoy an oyster."

Eleanor Clark

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Just a few more from the craziness

One of the highlights of the Festival weekend was defintely Mamma's gumbo.

We were up all night cooking and prepping this delicious dish and Mamma swore me to secrecy about all her ingredients but we did use a lot of seafood.

Robert Daffin with some of the "guests" joining us for dinner and the gumbo.

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While they were awaiting their turn to join the other seafood in the gumbo, we decided to play with our food a little bit.

We put on lobster races and the winner was the first into the pool!

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Mamma, of course, told us not to play with our food and gave the winner a nice hot bath prior to it joining her gumbo.

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All this time, the party was going on around us.

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We all tended to gather in the kitchen. Go figure........

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The gumbo was fantastic! It was worth the trip down to P.E.I. alone and didn't last very long!

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After eating, some of got into the spirit of things. Duane shaking his groove thang!

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This is one of me and my "homies" hanging out and causing trouble. (like usual)

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And, of course, I had to get a shot of me and Mamma!

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Competition Day next..................

All photo credits to Mamma on this one. Thanx!

Keep on shucking

Oyster Guy

"Why then, the world is mine oyster, which I with sword, shall open."

William Shakespeare-The Merry Wives of Windsor

"An oyster is a French Kiss that goes all the way." Rodney Clark

"Oyster shuckers are the rock stars of the shellfish industry." Jason Woodside

"Obviously, if you don't love life, you can't enjoy an oyster."

Eleanor Clark

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Competition Day starts off friendly but there is an underlying tension in the air that is perceptible to everyone.

Today is the main event and the reason why all of us travelled so many miles.

The partying and craziness of the night before is quickly forgotten as the shuckers start to get moving and preparing themselves for the day's battle.

This is serious business for us, all joking and kidding aside.

The ride to the contest is quiet as we are all lost in our thoughts and in our own pre-contest space. Some are practicing their shucking moves and others are listening to their favourite tunes on their I-pods but no-one is talking.

A huge difference from the last two days when none of us would shut the hell up.

We arrive at the tent and are quickly shuffled to the backstage area to a pre-contest meeting with the judges. John Baby, one of the judges, explains to us what mistakes they were seeing in the P.E.I. Championships that were held the day before.

John Bil had won that with an impressive 54 seconds flat time.

We were told the main mistake was in not completely severing the oyster from the bottom of the shell. Absorbing the information, we hung out backstage awaiting our turn on stage.

The air was electric and the tension was so thick in the air that one of the musicians hanging out backstage commented on it.

Before the contest some of us took the chance to sneak in a little more practice, especially the Europeans.

The reason is that this is not the oyster they would normally open back home which gave the North Americans a bit of an edge.

The European shuckers usually open the European Flat or Plate oyster (Ostrea edulis) which is native to their part of the world and much different to open than the American or Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) being used for the contest.

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Here Per is giving Sussi (European Women's Champion) some advice while Bobo is practicing his own shucking.

Using a different oyster did not mean that these shuckers were still going to be easy to beat.

They had beaten the North Americans in the 1st Oyster relay race the day before and that was no easy feat.

In a contest like this, the worst thing you can do is underestimate your opponents.

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Even the North Americans were getting the last minute practice in before it all went down.

William "Chopper" Young, owner and operator of the Wellfleet Oyster Company took this chance to sneak in some practice.

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We were pacing like caged lions backstage in the mintues before the contest.

No-one wished anyone good luck as luck at this point had nothing to do with it.

It had all come down to years of practice and skill levels.

The worst part for most shuckers is the waiting. You always hope to be the first to go on stage and get it over with rather than having to watch everyone else and seeing their times. When that happens, the internal pressure you put on yourself is immense.

My hands were shaking like crazy as I watched shucker after shucker mount the stairs to the stage and compete in the 3 person heats.

Was it the triple espresso, the moonshine or just my nerves?

I decided it was all three and stopped thinking about it as I concentrated on what I had to do.

There had been some qualification heats to qualify the day before and here are some shots from it.

This is Duane Mosher from Halifax, "tapping out" or signalling to the timer that he has finished shucking the plate.

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Duane used to work as an oyster shucker but is now what he described as a "computer geek" and still loves to turn the knife.

Paul Petcoff, general manager of Oyster Boy in Toronto shows us his shucking style.

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Simeron Novak from Rodney's Oyster House in Toronto finishes his plate and stands back. You can be disqualified if you touch your plate after you tap out.

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And Simeron in action. This is guy is a very quick, clean shucker. ( and a really nice guy too.)

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Only when the shuckers were done competing did they start to socialize with each other again.

Eamonn Clark from Rodney's, Ian Peck from Pure Spirits and Patrick McMurray from Starfish compare notes after their turns.

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I watch the other shuckers and their styles as they compete in their heats and admire some of them for their flair.

Oyster Bob Skinner from Joe Forte's finished his heat by tapping the handle of his knife gently on the table, then tossed the knife about 20 feet in the air and caught it in his hand and spun the knife while placing it in his back pocket.

The crowd loved it and cheered loudly for his antics!

Walking off the stage, Bob commented to me, "You always got give something back to the crowd."

Spoken like a true rock star! And that is what oyster shuckers are when it comes to the shellfish industry.

I am roused from my concentration when I hear my name being annouced for the next heat. My heart starts to race and my pulse quickens.

I turn the knife over and over in my hand as I wait by the stage stairs for them to call my name and it seems to take an eternity for me.

I listen to who I have in my heat and it is not going to an easy one for me.

I draw Robert Daffin, 2 time Florida State Champ and Xavier Caille, European Speed Shucking Champion. I seem to recall nightmares like this.

They announce my name and I mount the stage, careful not to look out at the crowd.

I wave to acknowledge the cheering but keep my eyes on the shucking table and the oysters. It is one thing to shuck oysters in front of 50-100-300 people at a bar or party but 2500 people in a tent and television cameras watching every oyster you shuck is another thing altogether. I have seen many shuckers get the "deer in the headlights" look when they have looked at the crowd.

I dump the box and grade out the 12 oysters I will shuck and my 2 discards which are the ones I least want to shuck and are there in case you get a bad one or dead one. My hands are still shaking and I can hear my pulse thundering in my ears as I arrange my oysters so they are in easy reach and the presentation plate is on my left hand, also within close reach.

My judge, Liam Dolan, asks if I am ready and I reply that I was born that way and I raise myvisibly shaking hands above my shoulders.

The annoucer checks with each of us to see if we are ready and all of us signal that we are.

I close my eyes and take 3 deep breaths and clear my mind of everything but my knife and the oysters and I wait.

The announcer says "3, 2, 1, Shuck!" and we are off!

I grab the first oyster and I open it quickly, discarding the shell onto the floor beside me and severing the adductor muscle and place it on the tray.

The next 2 are the same as the first and this is a good sign as I always take the first 3 slower to see how they are opening and then I ramp up my speed.

I am trying to make sure the muscles are severed on all of the oysters as I don't want to incurr any penalties that way.

The announcer is yelling and announcing every oyster as it hits our plates so that we are all aware how our competition is doing and how I am faring.

Robert finishes first, followed closely by Xavier and then me right after him.

The feeling of relief is immediate and welcome after the tension buildup.

I clean up my shells and get off the stage so that I can get a beer or a Ceasar and see how I did.

I run into Simeron and he compliments me on my style and the cleanliness of my plate. John Bil also compliments me on the clean plate and I am feeling good when guys like them say you did well.

I make my way to the bar and I order a double Ceasar and knock it back quickly and I start to feel better immediately.

My hands that were shaking violently on stage just a minute ago are as steady as a rock now.

I watch as the other shuckers do their heats and hope that I make the top 3 cut.

William "Chopper" Young was incredibly fast that day and he was on a streak having won the last 3 contests he had been in.

It came down to 3 guys and I wasn't one of them. :sad:

Oh, well, can't always get what you want!

In the final heat, it was John Bil, Pat McMurray and Chopper.

Chopper ended up winning, Pat took 2nd and John took 3rd place and everyone was happy with their placing considering the competition in the event.

You can check everyone's time and placing on the website www.peishellfish.com

We all gathered on stage for the presentations and a group photo.

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I wish to thank some people as my story departs from P.E.I. and heads west across Canada.

First and foremost, I want to thank John Bil, without whom none of this could have happened. If you get down to Charlottetown, you have to go and visit him at The Claddagh Oyster House. It is certainly worth the trip!

The P.E.I shellfish Festival is a can't miss event and I humbly suggest that if that if this sort of good time, music and people appeal to you that you go.

I'd like to thank Liam Dolan, Kim, Mark, Ian, Leslie, Duncan, Stanley, Erin, Ryan, Soupy, Doreen, Aimee, Sarah J., Brett, and all the rest at The Olde Dublin Pub and The Claddagh.

My love and kudos and total props go out to you all! :wub:

Photo credits to Mamma and Robert Daffin.

Next: Off to Montreal!

Keep on shucking

Oyster Guy

Edited by Oyster Guy (log)

"Why then, the world is mine oyster, which I with sword, shall open."

William Shakespeare-The Merry Wives of Windsor

"An oyster is a French Kiss that goes all the way." Rodney Clark

"Oyster shuckers are the rock stars of the shellfish industry." Jason Woodside

"Obviously, if you don't love life, you can't enjoy an oyster."

Eleanor Clark

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Hey I saw that yellow molded oyster knife in the New York Times Magazine on 12/3, dude. I couldn't believe it! Some nice comments about your shindig and the globe-trotting shuckers were included. Can't find the pic of the knife at nyt.com tho...

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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