Halifax Oyster Festival Sep 28-30 Halifax Waterfront, Salter Block oysterfest.ca
To understand Eamon Clark you should watch season three, episode 11 of Mind of a Chef, featuring Scandinavian chef Magnus Nilsson. Not that Clark is a two star Michelin chef overseeing "the most daring restaurant in the world" but rather, like Nilsson, he approaches his art with scholarly laser-focus, paying infinitesimal detail to product and presentation.
To say he's from an oyster dynasty would not be a total exaggeration. His father Rodney "The Oysterman" Clark is the founder of the Toronto institution Rodney's Oyster House, that now has a location in Calgary and an offshoot in Vancouver. And don't think that Clark had it made due to a family connection—he had to earn his way into the business. He completed the renowned chef training program at George Brown College, worked in both front and back-of-house and really made a study of oysters.
That passion has led Clark to hold the number one spot in the Canadian oyster shucking rankings eight times since 2007. There are hundreds of oyster shucking championships that are held globally each year, with some being more prestigious than others. There are the Nordic Championships, The China Shuck Off (which he won this year), The Canadian Oyster Shucking Championship (which you have to win in order to compete at the Worlds, and that he did) and of course, the World Oyster Shucking Championship held in Galway, Ireland.
At the Worlds, each competitor is given a box of 32 oysters, of which they have to choose 30. Each shucker (there's only one representative from each country) has to open all 30 oysters and "must present all their oysters on the deep shell with the oyster flesh the right side up." Clark shucked his 30 in around two-and-a-half minutes and is now officially third fastest oyster shucker in the world, behind Estonia and Ireland.
The oysters used in the Worlds are different from this side of the Atlantic. "Ostrea edulis"—better known as flats—"slightly resemble a scallop and I believe that there's a little more difficulty handling this type of oyster," says Clark, over the phone. For the competition, a sub-committee of the judges selected the best flats from Kelly Oyster Farm, which were "not less than 70 millimetres in diameter." Whose job was it to measure the oysters?
"When I was a younger competitor I was more focused on winning the World title," says Clark. Now, older, wiser and a father, he says he's truly "honoured to be able to represent Canada" on a global stage. Placing in this competition is an accomplishment that only a few Canadian champion shuckers are able to tout.
"I'm proud to be Canadian. I'm proud of my trade. I've been spoiled with the best of friends and family support. Placing this year in a competition that was the hardest I've ever experienced was a highlight of my life," wrote Clark in an Instagram post announcing his triumph.
This weekend he'll be at Halifax Oyster Festival—and the co-host of The Pearl Jam on Thursday, September 28th. Grab a ticket and hopefully a few years from now you'll see Clark starring in a Netflix food series and say "You know, I met him in Halifax!" Sadly, no one will believe you.