It was a battle of the Whangamoas with a difference as teams from Motueka and Blenheim competed on a knife edge.
The two Talleys teams battled it out at the Havelock Mussel & Seafood Festival’s mussel-opening competition this month to be the first to shuck–or open–their allocated 200 greenshell mussels.
At the end of 6 minutes and 32 seconds, the Talley’s Motueka team–Daejin “Shawn” An, Tommy Broughton, Michael Feng, and Tyson Te Miha put down their knives to retain the title they won when the competition was last held in 2021. Fifty-six seconds behind them, their colleagues Noah Marr, Arleigh Agregado, Eduardojr Erdao, and Hyundong Noh from the other side of the Whangamoas, Talley’s Blenheim, finished second.
The competition involves each of the team members opening 50 mussels as quickly as they can–a delicate operation that involves slicing through the adductor muscle, pulling out the beard, and removing one-half of the shell.
It requires speed, technique, and teamwork to get right, something Talley’s Motueka shellfish production manager Tawhi Marshall said the company actively practiced.
“We hand-select these guys, and then we train,” he said. “When they first started doing this, we got a table that mimicked what it would look like, what it would feel like to open in Havelock. The guys that we took this time from Motueka, it’s not foreign to them–they’ve all been-there-done-that, so when they got there they were comfortable as. We took over the four quickest openers we have in Motueka out of around 50 people. I’m hugely proud.”
All four members of the Motueka team qualified for the individual competition, in which mussel openers race to see who can open 100 mussels the fastest. From Talley’s Motueka, Shawn placed first with a time of 2 minutes 57 seconds, followed by teammate Broughton at 3 minutes 04 seconds and Marr from the Blenheim team.
“They judge you not only on speed but on quality. Anybody that’s put a knife into their mussel, that’s counted as a reject. If they leave the beard in the mussel, that too is counted as a reject,” Marshall said.
Defending the title next year might be tougher, with two of the champion team relocating to Talley’s Blenheim.
“I’ll have to start training the new guys now. Or I’ll bribe them to come back.”