Watch the shellfish fly at Bearfoot Bistro's World Oyster Invitational 

Event has become one of the most renowned — and unique — oyster competitions on the planet

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - shellfish showdown Competitors vie for $5,000 at last year's Bearfoot Bistro World Oyster Invitational.
  • PHOTO submitted
  • shellfish showdown Competitors vie for $5,000 at last year's Bearfoot Bistro World Oyster Invitational.

Chances are Eamon Clark has shucked more oysters than you.

"I have to have opened over a million oysters," he said, somewhat bashfully.

The son of Rodney Clark of Rodney's Oyster House fame, Clark has been a part of the shucking culture since he was a teenager helping at his dad's catering events.

It's safe to say the man knows what he's doing. It's part of the reason why Clark declined to compete in this year's Bearfoot Bistro World Oyster Invitational and Bloody Caesar Battle, instead agreeing to oversee the contest that will bring some of the world's best shuckers to Whistler.

Having won the competition each of the three years he's taken part, Clark is ready to take a backseat.

"After years of doing this competition stuff, it's nice to see it from the other side and not get the anxiety and stress of wanting to compete and do well," he said.

The seventh annual shellfish throwdown, scheduled for this Sunday, Nov. 19, invites 16 shuckers from as far away as Denmark for a chance at the $5,000 top prize — not to mention the glory of being crowned the baddest mothershucker on the planet. (I have to get at least one "mothershucker" in here every year.)

Originally modelled after the Galway Oyster & Seafood Festival in Ireland, considered one of the top oyster-shucking contests in the world, Bearfoot Bistro's invitational has grown into its own as one of the most distinct contests around.

"Having the three species of oysters being opened, it's the only competition I know that does that," Clark said. (The competition includes Pacific, Eastern and European oysters.) "It makes it extremely competitive for people from Europe, because they have their native oyster there."

So what do the judges look for in a good plate of oysters?

"We want to get our oysters at a nice speed. Everybody's timed and they have to shuck (30) oysters," Clark noted. "But what I also want to do as a shucker is make sure I'm presenting a really nice plate, meaning that the oysters are disconnected from the bottom, there's no shell or grit... and then we also want to maintain the quality of the beautiful oyster, so we don't want to cut it up, pierce it or stab it."

This year, the event will raise funds for the BC Cancer Foundation, a cause that's near and dear to Bearfoot founder André St. Jacques' heart.

"This year, my daughter was diagnosed with Stage 4 lymphoma and she's been battling that — she's doing great, by the way — so we decided to raise money for the BC Cancer Foundation. It was an easy no-brainer," he said, noting that 19-year-old Louise will be in attendance.

As anyone familiar with St. Jacques can attest, the man never turns down a chance to throw a lavish party, but the restaurateur would be the first to tell you that the oyster invitational has exceeded even his grandiose expectations.

"We first held it at the Bearfoot, and from there, we elevated it and made it bigger and better. Now, it's even outgrown the restaurant," he said.

St. Jacques was quick to thank Sawmill Bay Shellfish Company's Steve Pocock — who donates thousands of dollars worth of oysters to the event every year — for his significant contribution.

"It's really because of Steve from Sawmill Bay that this event happens," he mused.

The Bearfoot has also rolled a bloody Caesar competition into the event over the years, with bartenders and mixologists trying their hand in "the bloodiest battle" of the year for a chance at $1,000.

"That was something we started to do four years ago. It's actually quite interesting," said the Bearfoot's communication director Marc Des Rosiers. "We have different spirit brands sponsoring, and they each allow a bartender to come up with their own personal version of a bloody Caesar" using vodka, gin or whisky.

Scheduled from 3 to 7 p.m. at the conference centre, the $108 price tag includes a front-row seat to all the competitive action along with all refreshments, food and entertainment.

Visit whistlercornucopia.com for tickets.

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