WATSON — Duke Landry is an oyster aficionado.
Landry defended his 2014 U.S. National Oyster Shucking title with a fifth win at the St. Mary’s County Oyster Festival in Leonardtown, Maryland, two weeks ago.
All that oyster expertise has led Landry, 58, to open his own restaurant, Duke’s Seafood and Steakhouse, in Denham Springs by the end of October.
“I’ve always wanted to go out on my own eventually,” said Landry, who got his hands dirty shucking oysters and cleaning fish more than 40 years ago with his brother at the then family-owned Don’s Seafood restaurant in Baton Rouge.
“We were always fooling with seafood,” Landry said.
Landry began shucking oysters competitively as a young man.
In 1986, Landry and his brother entered an oyster-shucking competition in New Orleans.
Landry came in first, while his brother placed third.
Winning the competition sent Landry to Maryland to compete in the U.S. National Oyster Shucking Competition.
Landry won that competition as well, shucking two dozen oysters faster than any of the other competitors.
From then on, Landry traveled to Ireland to represent the United States in the Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival’s World Oyster Opening Championship.
Although Landry has never taken home the international title, he won U.S. National Oyster Shucking titles in 1987, 1988, 1990 and 2014, just after the competition lifted regulations against winning more than three times.
Most recently, Landry won his fifth national title by shucking two dozen oysters in two minutes and 16 seconds at the 2015 St. Mary’s County Oyster Festival and took 13th place at the Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival in September.
Landry will represent the United States again in 2016 at the world championship in Ireland.
But it’s not just how quickly oysters are shucked that count in the heat of competition, Landry said.
Judges also want to see how clean the oysters are and how they are presented on the half-shell, he said.
“You’ve got to have that presentation,” Landry said. “No one likes to bite into an oyster and taste grit or dirt.”
In the national competition, there is a three-second penalty if dirt is found on the oyster, if the oyster meat is cut and if the oyster is not properly resting on its shell, Landry said.
“Daddy always taught us if you’re going to do something, do it right,” Landry said. “I’m real competitive. I’m a good sport, but I hate to lose.”
Landry’s new restaurant will, of course, specialize in oysters and feature an oyster bar and serve char-broiled oysters, he said.
Duke’s Seafood and Steakhouse is located at 33920 La. 16, in Denham Springs.