Chopper's a true champion
I'm a competitive person by nature - so much that my wife refuses to even play cards with me - so I enjoy a hard-fought contest, especially when the world's best take center stage. Anyone attending the International Boston Seafood Show next week can catch the seafood version of March Madness when William "Chopper" Young takes on all challengers in the third annual oyster shucking contest on Monday afternoon.
If you're new to the shucking scene, know this: Chopper is the best there is and everyone is gunning for him. He's the two-time defending national champion and the current world champion, having bested the competition last autumn in Galway, Ireland, at the International Oyster Opening Championship. He's also the subject of SeaFood Business' One on One article in the upcoming April issue. He won't brag one bit, but he knows he's the man to beat.
With his Goliath skills and David demeanor, Chopper is a humble champion anyone could root for. The Wellfleet, Mass., oyster fisherman honed his talent on the tailgate of his truck when, as he was breaking into the industry, he discovered that all the halfshell business was taken. If he wanted to sell any oysters, they'd have to be shucked and sold by the gallon.
"I was doing a lot of cutting to make ends meet," he told me of his once-thankless chore. "More cutting made me better."
Make that unstoppable. After watching a local woman win an oyster shucking contest at Wellfleet's Bygone Days festival about six or seven years ago, Chopper thought he'd do well under the bright lights and in front of screaming people and judges' stopwatches. Since then he's won about 20 competitions - he's lost count, actually - including the first two contests at IBSS, which is becoming a hot event.
Shucking has been good to Chopper, too: He took home more than $9,000 in prize money last year. His sponsors include Evinrude. He's traveled the world. And, because he knows this ride won't last forever, he understands the friendships he's made on the "shucking circuit" are more valuable than money. At the Mohegan Sun Oyster Open in January, Young shared about half of his prize winnings - USD 1,000 (EUR 783) - with his fellow competitors.
"A lot of people are having a hard time right now and they worked hard and spent a lot of money to be there. They're awesome shuckers and they deserve it," Young said.
Spoken like a true champion.
The third annual oyster-shucking contest at the International Boston Seafood Show will take place on Monday, 16 March at 3:30 p.m. in the Culinary Demonstration Theater on the show floor. This year's host is Rowan Jacobsen, author of "A Geography of Oysters: The Connoisseur's Guide to Oyster Eating in North America."