Chef Hanis Cavin Participates in Oyster Shuck-a-thon

August 7, 2014

What a mothershucker! Carnitas’ Snack Shack executive chef Hanis Cavin won the first annual Charity Shuckathon oyster shucking contest held Tuesday, August 5, 2014, at Ironside Fish & Oyster. All proceeds ($1 each) from his 549 total will go toward San Diego YMCA Youth & Family Services OZ Shelter Program.

Here’s a write-up of the event from

Shucking in the name of charity
Five San Diego chefs go head-to-head in competition at Ironside in Little Italy

By Amy T. Granite, August 6, 2014

Briny juices and smack-talk flew threw the air at Ironside Fish & Oyster last night for its very first Charity Shuck-A-Thon. During the event, five San Diego hotshot chefs each had an hour to pry open and serve as many orders that came their way from the insatiable, slurping crowd. The occasion was none other than National Oyster Day, and to celebrate, Ironside extended its happy hour (3 to 6 p.m., Mon. to Fri.) prices of $1 oysters until 10 p.m. A packed-to-the-gills house was encouraged to keep ordering the Kumiai Oysters donated by Farm Fresh Shellfish, with 100 percent of proceeds going to each chef’s charity of choice during their shucking hour.

The feeding frenzy kicked-off with force as the crowd ordered 500 oysters in the first 20 minutes, said Ironside’s Executive Chef, Jason McLeod.

Contenders included George Morris (Beaumont’s Eatery), Matt Gordon (Urban Solace, Sea & Smoke), Hanis Cavin (Carnitas Snack Shack), Chad White (Comun Kitchen), and Amy DiBiase (Tidal), with McLeod overseeing the mayhem that resulted in a grand shucking total of 2,565 oysters sold throughout the night.

“It’s not really a natural thing to do,” said McLeod about the challenges of shucking. “When you’re cutting something, you cut down, but when you’re shucking, you shuck into yourself, so your hands and fingers get in the way.”

When asked before the event about the competing shuckers and predictions for the night, McLeod was quick to bring up Cavin, who’s known for working with meat, not delicate seafood. “Hanis just rips oysters open—he manhandles them!” McLeod laughed. “This is going to be fun.”

“I kind of pop them open,” Cavin admitted, as he positioned himself behind the raw bar. “I’m used to breaking down pigs! I hadn’t shucked an oyster in so long, so my social media guy brought me three dozen from Catalina Offshore to practice so that I could have a fighting chance.”

With totals announced this morning, Cavin prevailed as the meanest mothershucker of the night, serving up a total of 549 oysters in one hour with proceeds going to the YMCA Oz Shelter Services. “The charity gives mothers and youth a chance they wouldn’t have had,” he said. “Since I don’t have kids of my own, I want to help someone else’s.”

Chef White earned second place bragging rights with a grand total of 534 oysters shucked, benefiting the Kawasaki disease Foundation. At the start of his shift, he was greeted with an order for 90 oysters from a table that wound up ordering a total of 102 that hour. His strategy? “I’m just going to put my head down and shuck.”

White went on to share his favorite oyster dish in town — fellow competitor George Morris’ chicken fried oysters. “I fry the oysters in chicken fat,” Morris said through a devilish grin. He shucked for the charity Just Call Us Volunteers, which caters healthy meals at homeless shelters in San Diego.

“I also make Oysters Bird-Rockefeller at Beaumonts. Ha-ha, get it?”

Of all the competitors, Morris shucked with the most gusto, at one point proclaiming, “This isn’t a challenge, it’s an opportunity!” He went on to peacock around the restaurant, throwing his totals out there for all to hear. McLeod says Morris even called his cell at 1:30 a.m. to find out who was crowned winner.

“I was too tired to pick up,” said McLeod.

Morris and fellow competitor DiBiase both share a favorite oyster in the “Fat Bastard” out of Washington State. DiBiase admitted that even though she grew up in Maine, she didn’t start eating oysters till her mid-twenties, but hasn’t looked back since. Her grand total was 466, coming in at fifth place, with proceeds benefiting the Center for Community Solutions San Diego, whom she’s worked with for 10 years now.

Competing with Morris for top wisecrack of the night was Gordon. When he took center stage, Gordon tried recalling the first oyster he ever shucked saying: “It was years ago, when Jerry Garcia was still alive. I don’t remember; I was probably stoned.”

Gordon ranked fourth with 487 oysters; his charity of choice was the San Diego Botanic Gardens. “Each of these things has a different door,” he said of the oysters. “It’s not always apparent how to get in, so you have to analyze and convince and massage and squeeze and turn, and there you are. There’s that aphrodisiac inside, and you just have to coax it open.”

And what happens, exactly, if you eat too many? “There’s no such thing. Just take a cold shower,” Gordon advised.

“We’re going to do a lot more events like this,” McLeod said of the successful night. “I really want to have some fun here and be a part of the city that I think is on the cusp of greatness.”

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