First Czech oyster opening competition takes place on Old Town Square

Oyster competition, photo CTK

As part of the St Patrick's Day celebrations in Prague a most unusual event was held on Old Town Square on Sunday - the first ever Czech oyster opening competition, with the winner to represent the Czech Republic at the world championships later in the year. Overseeing the competition was two-times world oyster opening champion Vincent Graham from Galway in Ireland. Ian Willoughby spoke to Mr Graham, and began by asking him what was his record time.

Oyster competition, photo CTK
"My record was 2 minutes 37 seconds for 30 oysters. That included penalties. You're not allowed to have any blood on oysters or any of the broken shell. You have to have them as you would expect to get them in a restaurant. They have to be clean and edible - with shell on them you can't eat them. The whole thing of the competition is to go for quality. You've got all the top hotels here today, the Hilton and all those hotels - this is what they aim for."

A large crowd cheered on the seven chefs from top Prague hotels who took part in the oyster-opening competition. It really was quite something watching the chefs using their knives to open piles of oysters at high speed. Luckily I wasn't too near the front - some of those who were got sprayed with oyster juice. The criteria were speed and presentation, and the chef who scored highest in both and was declared the winner was the Frenchman Jean-Paul Manzac. What exactly was the prize?

"The prize is going to be a weekend in Ireland to participate in another opening competition."

You will be representing the Czech Republic?

"Yes, I will."

But isn't that a little strange - with you being French?

"I am here for three years and I have a Czech wife and son so I believe I'm half-Czech."

Of course I couldn't leave without asking the world oyster opening champion Vincent Graham to show me his technique.

"Here is your oyster. It's a hard shell built up over about two and a half years. Inside is your fish. You've to get in between the two shells. In here you get a mussel that holds the two shells together, joined here and at the bottom. When you cut that your oyster will open then you just clean it off and you have it ready for presentation in a restaurant or wherever."

It drips.

"Some of the people love the juice - this is part of the oyster...you drink that when you eat the fish. Would you like to try that one."

I will try it - it's my first oyster, ever...(eats oyster)...it's very salty. It's like drinking sea-water.

"It's not that salty but it tastes of the sea. I hope you enjoyed it."

It was interesting - like I say it was like drinking sea-water.

"You need a drop of Guinness after that. Traditionally in Ireland you have oysters with Guinness and brown bread - the three of them go together."