In his job at Hunt’s Oyster Bar & Seafood Restaurant in Panama City, Florida, Honor Allen helps shuck more than a thousand oysters a day. After seven years, he’s become quite the speedy shucker.
Last month, Allen’s skill helped him defeat thirty-two competitors and win the annual National Oyster Shucking Championship Contest in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, for the third time. Allen and the other contenders had to shuck twenty-four Chesapeake Bay oysters as quickly—and cleanly—as possible. Infractions such as not severing the oyster from the shell or cutting into the oyster meat result in time penalties.
Allen, 25, won the men’s division and then faced women’s champion Annie Bonifacio, of Shallotte, North Carolina, for the overall title. Bonifacio, 40, earned the women’s championship in 2015, 2016, and 2018, and was the overall winner in 2002, the youngest ever at the time.
In the final, Allen opened his allotment of two dozen bivalves in 1 minute, 59.22 seconds, and after infraction deductions, finished with an official time of 2:20.22. Bonifacio completed shucking in 2:17.18, but recorded an official time of 3:26.18 with penalties.
Allen said that along with “good muscle memory,” experience with a variety of oysters helped him win. “There are so many different kinds of shell structures,” he says. “A lot of winning the competition is being flexible and having experience in shucking many different kinds of oysters.” Allen, who also took top prize in 2016 and 2017, is now eligible to compete in the World Oyster Opening Championship, to be held in Galway, Ireland, next fall.
Watch highlights of the competition here:
In Charleston, South Carolina? Celebrate oysters and check out the shucking competition at the Charleston Oyster Social on November 24. Get tickets here.