Chef's Choice: Bearfoot Bistro World Oyster Invitational 

click to enlarge Out of this world oysters Don't miss the annual Bearfoot Bistro World Oyster Invitational, Sunday June 29, 2-6 pm.
  • Out of this world oysters Don't miss the annual Bearfoot Bistro World Oyster Invitational, Sunday June 29, 2-6 pm.

What is it about oysters that people find so fascinating?

That was one of the registration questions posed to potential competitors for the fourth annual Bearfoot Bistro World Oyster Invitational.

The responses were varied, from the tongue-in-cheek ("sex appeal," one entrant answered) to the simple and straightforward ("we feel happy whenever we eat oysters," said another).

But perhaps the most thorough answer came from returning competitor Michael Moran of Galway, Ireland.

"There is a romantic, elegant and natural beauty to oysters," Moran responded.

"(There) is the wonderful art and theatre of opening an oyster and the customer's anticipation, excitement and marvel while they wait."

And Moran knows the art of oyster theatre better than perhaps anybody else in the world.

The son of a world-champion oyster shucker, Moran has been shucking since he was just 16 years old.

"Growing up in a 300-year-old, seven-generation oyster bar, oyster opening is in the blood," Moran said.

"My earliest memory was not being able to see over the oyster opening table to see my father opening."

His list of accolades speaks for itself.

Moran is a two-time world oyster opening champion, five-time European champion and seven-time Irish champion.

Even after all he's accomplished, Moran still gets nervous before a big competition — though he's learned how to harness those nerves into something productive.

"You need a certain amount of nerves and adrenaline to break time records and achieve that extra couple of seconds that may be the difference between first and second place," he said.

So what can people expect when they head to this year's invitational to watch him compete?

"Skilled shuckers, sharp knives and lots of champagne," Moran said.

"And of course, good fun."

While Moran might be the most accomplished at this year's invitational, his competitors are no slouches.

There's Shoko Izumi — a former Grand Oyster Master from Tokyo, Japan — and Anthony Pane and Tom Stocks, a pair of shuckers out of Seattle.

But while the event has always attracted competition from across the globe, there's plenty of representation from skilled shuckers within B.C. as well.

"I don't have a lot of competition experience but hopefully I'll do alright," said Rich King, who will be representing Vancouver-based Chewie's Oyster Bar.

"Maybe I'll close my eyes and see how I do," he added with a laugh.

But where Moran relies on his nerves to give him that extra jump, King takes a different approach to competition.

"I don't really get nervous," he said.

"Better to stay calm and remember to enjoy the whole experience and take it all in."

While the Oyster Invitational is certainly the main draw, there's also the Bearfoot Bistro Bloody Caesar battle to look forward to, where six of B.C.'s best mixologists will face off in a showdown to see who can concoct the best Bloody Caesar.

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