University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine

Master of the Molluscs

Patrick McMurray (PHE 1992) is the first Canadian to win the World Oyster Opening Championships

Armed with more than 10 years of practice, a custom-made knife and a carefully crafted game plan, Patrick McMurray (PHE 1992) arrived at his fourth World Oyster Opening Championships in Ireland last September ready to win. He had a new strategy this time: to curb his legendary shucking speed and focus on the visual presentation of the final plate. When he put down his knife after opening 30 oysters in two minutes and 45 seconds, he was the new world champion and the first Canadian to take the prize in the contest’s 48-year history.

McMurray, 34, shucked his first oyster at 16 as a busboy at a swanky Toronto eatery. But it wasn’t until he graduated from U of T and started working at an oyster bar that he honed his skills and started entering competitions. The three-time Canadian champion says his phys. ed. degree has actually served him well in his unconventional career. “I’ve used the principles of anatomy and physiology in designing my knife and perfecting my cutting, and all of my physical training has come in handy when I prepare for competitions.”

In fall 2001 McMurray realized another dream by opening Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill in downtown Toronto. Not surprisingly, the publicity over his recent triumph has been great for business. “We’re getting pretty well known out there in the oyster world,” he says. Though he estimates he has opened about 1.6 million of the molluscs to date, he can’t imagine laying down his shucking knife. “What I’m striving for now is the perfect plate – and that is always elusive.”

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