Shuckers competing for cash at oyster fest 

International event attracts competitors from Japan and Denmark

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JOERN ROHDE/JOERNROHDE.COM - PEARL PILLOW Some of the best oyster shuckers in the world will be in Whistler this weekend to open shells for fun and charity.
  • Photo by Joern Rohde/joernrohde.com
  • PEARL PILLOW Some of the best oyster shuckers in the world will be in Whistler this weekend to open shells for fun and charity.

It is time once again for the annual competition featuring man versus oyster. The oysters, once again this year, aren't expected to win.

To wash down the seafood, the Bearfoot Bistro is also holding its annual Bloody Caesar Battle.

The real winner last year was the BC Children's Hospital Foundation. Hundreds of oysters were sacrificed in the raising of $21,000 for the foundation. This year the charities of choice are Playground Builders and Whistler Animals Galore.

Robert Skinner, better known as Oyster Bob, thrilled the 2012 crowd by winning the oyster shucking competition and Jean Sebastien Dupuis mixed up the favoured Ceasar of the competition. Skinner will be back. Dupuis apparently can't make it this year so a new Caesar champ will be crowned.

Eamon Clark, the 2011 competition winner from Rodney's Oyster Bar in Toronto, is coming back. Ian Peck was the 2012 runner up and he is also going to be pushing to take the title from Skinner, along with the $5,000 first place prize.

Oyster Bob has spent the last 27 years shucking at Joe Fortes in Vancouver and just three months ago he decided to focus on his own catering company. His customers often seek him out for his expertise with oysters but he says his company is a full-service operation offering more than just seafood.

In a telephone interview from his home on Tuesday he learns the full list of people he's up against.

"It is a good quality field," says Skinner. "I'll have to bring my 'A' game."

As usual, the team at the Bearfoot has pulled together some of the top shuckers from around the world for the contest. Noriko Kamashima is coming from Japan, Sweden's Hans Johannesson is coming and Simon Toensager will travel from Denmark. Kamashima placed first at the Japan Oyster Championships in June. Toensager is a three-time Danish champion, three-time Nordic champion and he came second twice at the European Championships.

According to Skinner, Toensager is a credible competitor.

The American competitors are Anthony Pane and Tom Stocks from Seattle. The other Canadian competitors are Joshua Bishop of Ottawa, Bearfoot shucker Bradley Gallant and B.C. Oyster Shucking Champion Issac Martin Del Campo.

Daniel Notkin is going to compete representing Montreal. He is a central character in a documentary called Shuckers.

"I'm picking him up from the airport," Skinner says of his oyster buddy from Montreal.

Six top drink mixers have been invited to pull together Bloody Caesars as part of the festival. Anna Wallace from the Walrus and the Carpenter in Seattle will take on Justin Taylor from Yew Seafood and Bar in the Four Seasons Hotel in Vancouver; Whistler's Tia Stonier of the Mix by Ric's, Scot Curry from Alta Bistro, Christopher Hoy with the Bearfoot Bistro and Ryan McDonald of UVA Wine Bar in Vancouver. The creator of the best Caesar of the day will take home $5,000.

The seafood and Caesar celebration is set for Sunday, July 14 from 2 until 6 p.m.

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