Anti Lepik from Estonia has been crowned the World Oyster Opening Champion at the Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival 2018, which took place on Saturday September 29th.
Anti, who is a three time World Oyster Opening Champion and last year's winner, won the competition with a total time, after adjustments, of 2 minutes and 26 seconds.
Anti won out against 19 other competitors, ranging from fellow world record holders and representatives from some of the most famous seafood-loving nations, including Japan, Norway and Spain.
Each participant had to shuck a crate of 30 Galway Bay oysters (Ostrea Edulis), placing them on a given tray, and ringing out a handbell to signal they're completed the task. A team of judges then examined each tray, looking for well-opened oysters, neat and without flaws, and with the oyster severed from the shell but intact, and points were awarded for speed and presentation, and deducted for the presence of grit or shell, or for missing, unsevered or sliced oysters.
2018 is the 64th year of the Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival, which has seen a strong resurgence in recent years. The festival celebrates the unique nature of Irish oysters, which vary depending on where along the Irish coastline they are raised.
The cold, nutrient-rich waters that surround Ireland help to produce oysters that are increasingly being sought after domestically and overseas. Almost 10,000 tonnes of Irish oysters were produced in 2017, the equivalent of some 13m servings of a dozen oysters, and at a value of more than €43m, according to the Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) 2017 Business of Seafood Report.
Hannah and Thomas Galvin of Moyasta Oysters in West Clare were among the producers at the festival. The Galvin family, a second generation family of oyster farmers, sell directly to restaurants in Ireland and to retailers in the UK market. They are the first in Ireland to use the trestle and basket method of oyster production, a method that requires zero handling and that relies on the waves and tides of the Atlantic waters to tumble, shake and buff their oysters as they mature.
“Galway is the gorgeous magnet that has drawn oyster lovers from all over the world at this time of year for 64 years,” says Maria Moynihan Lee, producer of the Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival, “and we are delighted to welcome everyone from an Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to some of our familiar champion shuckers to visitors here for their first time – and maybe even enjoying their very first oyster!
“As the oldest food festival in Ireland celebrating our most prized edible treasure, we love the excitement and energy the World Oyster Opening Championships brings to our festival, and we congratulate all the excellent contestants, agus comhghairdeas ó chroí le Anti Lepik, our new champion.”
Richard Donnelly, Business and Innovation Manager, BIM said: “Ireland has the ideal conditions for growing oysters. It’s important to celebrate the industry and the diversity of Irish oysters and to realise that no two producers’ oysters are the same.”