Carmine Lopez wins Shuck-a-Thon contest

In celebration of all things awesome-National Oyster Day, female chefs and charitable causes - Ironside hosted its second annual Shuck-a-Thon with a packed house of revelers who slurped down a total of 5,613 oysters during the 7-hour feeding frenzy. To give some perspective, that's more than double the oysters sold in last year's competition-for-a-cause, where Hanis Cavin (Carnita's Snack Shack) prevailed with 549 oysters shucked during his time slot, contributing to the grand total of 2,565 sold. But even with two more chefs shucking than last year - which, in effect added two more hours for guests to stuff their faces - there was no denying that these seven ladies smoked last year's competition in both form and function. "I'm a huge fan of female chefs - my favorite chef is a woman, Anne-Sophie Pic," said Ironside's executive chef and partner Jason McLeod about the decision to feature an all-women lineup this year. "There's always the debate about this industry being sexist, but for me, female chefs are the most dedicated to the trade. They're better cooks, better organizers, and have better taste buds than most men. There's just something there that's a nudge above us." McLeod invited Claudette Wilkins Zepeda (Bracero), Priscilla Curiel (Talavera Azul), Rachel King (Nine-Ten), Katherine Humphus (Kat's Kitchen Collective), Carmine Lopez (Great Maple), Marci Flores (The Cheese Store) and his own pastry chef at Ironside, Donna Antaloczy, to compete for the charities of their choosing. Undoubtedly, Humphus was the woman to beat. She's a pro competitor who doesn't buckle under pressure, whether she's shucking oysters to benefit Children International or battling Food Network royalty Bobby Flay on his own cooking show. "I had the best time - it was really cool for me to be back in a restaurant setting," Humphus said in lieu of hanging up her toque last year to launch an online cooking school. "It's super cool to be surrounded by female chefs because it's such a different dynamic than in all-dude kitchens. Everyone cheered each other on and it was really refreshing to be around. And Jason has such a big heart bringing everyone together like this in the name of charity." Humphus' grand total was 839 oysters shucked, and while that number is impressive, she ranked third place with Lopez taking the title of Mother Shucker 2015 with 899 total oysters, proceeds from which will benefit the Huntington's Disease Society of America. Trailing Lopez was King with 868 oysters, benefitting Project Wildlife. Before taking the stage, King, who's a pastry chef, admitted to not being the most experienced oyster handler on the planet. But the underdog wound up making it look easy and shucked her way to second place. Runners up were Antaloczy with 820 oysters benefitting Rady Children's Hospital; Flores with 778 oysters for the non-profit organization, Waves for Water; Curiel shucked 717, fundraising for the Tijuana-based Fundación Luz; and Zepeda with 692 oysters, benefitting the Semper-Fi Foundation. "Walking into a kitchen as a woman, you never know if you're going to be accepted," said Zepeda. "These guys (at Ironside) are welcoming and professional. I saw this event on Instagram and commented that I wanted in, and Jason replied almost instantly. You can't beat this kind of camaraderie." "The women were very gentle with each other - there was a bit of sh*t talking going on last year with all the guys. It was great seeing them meet and form new friendships," McLeod said, adding that the tight-knit chef's community in Chicago, where he worked previously, has inspired him to do whatever he can to strengthen the bond between chefs in San Diego. "I just really felt there was a distance between chefs in town," McLeod said. "We have to have a community where we help each other and promote one another, and that foundation needs to be strong to help carry us to the next level. We're all trying to get to the same place of creating better food and opportunities in San Diego." Source: DiscoverSD
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