To some people, it’s just plain old happy hour at Elliott’s Oyster House. To sous chef Jorge Hernandez, it’s time for championship-style shucking.
The hundreds of oysters Hernandez speeds through with his shucking knife — a quick move to insert the tip, a characteristic “snickt!” sound as the shell opens, and swift clean cuts to sever the meat — are done at the same clip he’ll bring to the International Boston Seafood Show in March, where he’ll defend his title as the nation’s fastest oyster shucker. (He’s also the three-time Washington state champ.)
We checked in with Hernandez the other day to see if he could share some of his tips. Watch the video above to see how he does it – first the slow and basic way, then a few at the end at top speed. To win the national title, he shucked a dozen oysters in 96 seconds, a feat one follower dubbed the “oyster shucking shocker.”
Hernandez had never eaten an oyster, let alone shucked one, when he first came to Elliott’s 12 years ago. He was raised in northern Mexico, and remembers thinking “People eat these rocks?” the first time he saw them on the plate. But he learned fast, though he’s soft-spoken and modest about his accomplishments.
Some of his favorites to eat now are Penn Cove Select and Kusshis, with their clean, full flavors. Kusshis are also among the easiest to shuck, with their small size and deep cups. He’s got plenty of opportunities to discern the differences; at Elliott’s he might shuck 100 to 150 dozen per day.
“You just go by feeling the oyster….” he said.
“I’m still learning.”
Photo of shucker supreme Jorge Hernandez by David Dickey