Mohegan Sun WineFest: The Oyster Open
More specifically, this post is about an event I mentioned in my lead-up post, the 8th Annual Mohegan Sun Oyster Open. I was fortunate enough to meet Chef Jasper White of Jasper White’s Summer Shack during my last trip to Mohegan, and he told me this event was one that I would not want to miss. I found him at the WineFest, and he was kind enough to help me out by telling me more about the competition. He also helped me get as close as possible to the stage – and even ON the stage at one point – so that I could get some great photos!
Jasper kicked off the event and thanked everyone for coming out. I had no idea that so much went into just getting a chance to compete in the Oyster Open – after all, first prize was $5,000! All competitors (a couple were from Mohegan’s Summer Shack restaurant location) had to qualify and have a history of winning past, smaller competitions.
The MC explained to us that oyster shucking competitions are not just about speed – presentation also matters! Competitors could gain or lose points based on of the quality of the shucking job, which was demonstrated when the judges performed tests like checking to see how easily the oyster meat disconnected from the shell.
Before the first round got going, the newest judge, William “Chopper” Young, who has dominated the last several competitions, accepted a Hall of Fame Award for his achievements in oyster shucking. Chopper won the World Championship in Ireland two years ago. This is the most prestigious oyster shucking event in the entire world!
Soon it was time for the competition to get under way. The competitors stood poised, hands up, ready to be told they could start.
At this point, Jasper helped me out by getting me close enough to get some great shots of one of his restaurants’ oyster shucking chefs in action. It’s amazing what these guys can do!
The chef pictured above is Eladio Jadiria, a Boston Summer Shack shucker. He ended up placing 4th, but has been winning every Boston competition for the last several years!
Once time was up (some finished before that), all candidates raised their hands in the air again, and the judges took the trays away to be analyzed for shucking quality.
Another kind of competition took place while the judges did their work – a beer shucking contest! That’s right, who can open a case of beer the quickest? Best of all, the audience received the opened bottles after the contest was over!
Jasper and I were rooting for one of Mohegan Sun’s own, a bartender at Ultra 88 nightclub. Unfortunately she did not win, but the competition was sure fun to watch. The energy was great!
The judging was certainly thorough! There was still one more round to go, but the first round scores were still crucial.
At this point, I realized it was 4:47PM (the Fest closed at 5PM) and I had about 10 food tokens left. I bid Jasper goodbye and went off in search of places to spend them, so I did not catch the next round.
However, I found out that the winner ended up being George “Hannibal” Hastings of Virginia. He is a national champion at least two times over, and has competed at the World Championship in Ireland!
It was a fantastic way to end my trip to the Sun WineFest. Thank you so much to Jasper White for helping me make this the best post possible!
Have you ever heard of oyster shucking competitions? I honestly had no idea this sport existed until I read about it before the WineFest!