David Burns’ oyster story

David Burns with a plate of oysters

Oysters kind of fell into David Burns’ life. But once they did, they never left. 

After being suddenly left without work about seven years ago, David applied to Rodney’s Oyster House in Toronto on a bit of a whim. 

Always a fan of seafood and great culinary experiences, David was in awe when he first walked inside the restaurant and saw the front of house staff shucking oysters. They welcomed him warmly and gushed over how much they loved their workplace. David was convinced by their enthusiasm pretty quickly, and luckily, he got the job. 

“I just fell in love with it,” he remembers, his voice echoing through the phone. He’s making the call between culinary events, sitting in his car in Hamilton, where he now lives. 

David’s interest in oysters became a part of his identity fast. In his first year working at Rodney’s Oyster House, not only did he master how to properly open oysters, he started competing too. David went to the Canadian Shucking Championships that same year. 

Today he has competed throughout Canada and the United States, and also owns his own oyster catering business. When David relocated to Hamilton last year, he searched high and low for an employer like Rodney’s, where he could shuck oysters and entertain people. He couldn’t find anything, and his best option became clear: bring oysters to Hamilton himself. 

David’s catering business, Maisy’s Pearl, is named after his two daughters. It’s a venture in spreading oyster culture and education throughout his new city. From pop-up events to weekly restaurant appearances, to weddings, David keeps busy by opening oysters. 

“We’re bringing oyster culture to a place that kind of has an idea of what the oyster subculture is all about, but don’t really know yet,” he says. “But luckily, it’s been so well received.” 

David’s favourite part about oysters is the community the shellfish fosters: the passion of those in the business, the comradery at shucking competitions, and the enthusiasm of people who love eating them.

“It’s very community-driven and that’s what I love,” says David. 

This year will be David’s first time at Halifax Oyster Festival: although it’s always been on his list, the timing always seemed to conflict for him. But when asked if he would host this year, he couldn’t say no. “I can’t wait to get out there,” he says. 

Catch David Burns on stage during Halifax Oyster Festival at any of our three sessions! He’s a storyteller, so no doubt you’ll learn a lot from him! In the meantime, we asked him a few important questions. 

*Answers edited for clarity.

1. How do you eat your oysters?

A little bit of lemon goes a long way for me, I love lemon on oysters! But if I’m having quite a few, that’s when I’ll get into the mignonettes. I also like hot sauce but find it just masks the taste too much.

2. What do you love to talk about when it comes to oysters

I love the sustainability of oysters, and that they’re so good for you. I love that you can have an oyster farm less than a kilometer away from another farm and the oysters taste completely different. I also love speaking about the geography of it all, where the oysters are from.

3. What are your top tips for shucking oysters?

A) Slow and steady wins the race 

B) Quality, not quantity: you want a perfectly shucked oyster that’s going to be palatable, exotic and tastes great on your palette.

Learn more about David and his business here