Honor Allen, a Panama City resident, will travel across the Atlantic Ocean next September to represent the U.S. in the Galway, Ireland International Oyster Opening Contest.
PANAMA CITY — A Gulf Coast local will represent the U.S. in an upcoming international oyster shucking contest.
For 25-year-old Honor Allen, oysters are more than just a type of seafood, they're a lifestyle.
Next September, he will travel across the Atlantic Ocean to compete — for the third time — in the Galway, Ireland International Oyster Opening Contest.
“It feels amazing,” Allen said. “I'm really passionate about the industry.”
To qualify for the international event, he had to take the gold at a competitions at the Florida Seafood Festival and the U.S. Oyster Festival — a feat he's now accomplished three times.
Not only are competitions timed, they're judged on how clean each oyster is shucked, he said.
“They have a panel of judges go over each tray, and they add penalty seconds for impurities,” Allen said. “It's kind of like a time and penalty-based competition.”
Unlike U.S. competitions, where competitors shuck 24 oysters as fast as possible, European tournaments use 30.
They also use a different species of oyster called Ostrea Edulis, which he said have different shells than the native Crassostrea Virginica.
“They're built more like a scallop or a clam,” Allen added.
This gave him some problems in 2016, when he placed 13th in his first international competition. In 2017, he managed to boost his ranking to 5th place.
“I'd really like (to be in) the top three (next year),” he said. “But, it's hard to say because everybody there is so experienced.”
Along with the adrenaline rush that comes with being up on stage, the event is also a chance for Allen to meet like-minded competitors from more than 20 countries.
“It's a blessing to be able to go and have fun with these guys and talk about different oysters, or different farming techniques,” he said. “It's really just an amazing feeling.”
Looking ahead, Allen is planning to give his all at the upcoming competition and hopes to make Panama City proud.
He currently works as an oyster shucker at Hunt's Oyster Bar & Seafood Restaurant and credited his success to countless hours of practice and a hometown that always has his back.
“I've kind of grown up around (oysters), and I'm really fond of them,” he said. “I love eating them, I love shucking them (and) I enjoy the hospitality business.”