BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - In the world of oyster shucking, it can take years to get good. Hundreds have to learn just the right angle to get the best leverage, and the perfect pressure to pop the hinge without ruining the pearly white oyster inside.
Baylee Mowatt is a natural.
On most nights, Mowatt makes a living by shucking and jiving behind the oyster bar at Jolie Pearl in downtown Baton Rouge.
The Delaware transplant wields an oyster knife like he was born on the bayou. Wedging a stiff blade into the oyster's shell, he cracks the mollusks open with a flick of the wrist, sliding his blade under the succulent treat, severing the muscle from the shell.
"It's non-stop. If I'm not up here shucking, I'm in the back shucking." said Mowatt. He's got to move fast to keep the customers happy.
?Mowatt has been cleaving shells in half less than a year. It was a Friday night in an oyster bar in Delaware when he picked up the skill. Mowatt was bussing tables when one of the shuckers did not show up for work.
"They asked, 'You ever shucked an oyster before.'" said Mowatt. "'No.' But they taught me."
Cold winters chased Mowatt south. A CraigsList ad landed him a job at the Jolie Pearl. General Manager Maxx D'Jorghi liked Mowatt, saying that he saw a hard worker in him. When D'Jorghi saw him shuck, he knew Mowatt had something special.
Last weekend, D'Jorghi took his ace shucker to the New Orleans Oyster Festival. Eighteen-year-old Mowatt shucked more oysters faster than the most seasoned shuckers in the state. "The competition was fun." said Mowatt, "There were a lot of really nice people there. All good shuckers."
He shucked 18 oysters in two minutes. That's about one every six seconds. It was enough to earn Mowatt the Louisiana Oyster Shucking title, the youngest ever to earn top shucker honors. Mowatt had planned to move on, but now he says he will hang around another year to defend his title.