Daniel Notkin’s infatuation with the sea started when he was a kid, although he didn’t eat his first oyster until he was 30. Today he is a Canadian championship oyster shucker. He has also competed in China and is the founder of Montreal Oysterfest.
But Haligonians probably know him best for his presence at Halifax Oyster Festival Notkin has hosted the shucking competition since our very first festival. He’s known for his enthusiasm, passion and wealth of oyster knowledge. Notkin’s mantra on becoming an oyster expert is this: “if you’re going to do somethi
ng, learn every single thing about it that you can so that no one can tell you otherwise.” And that’s what he has spent the last 12 years doing.
Notkin has seen the oyster industry grow in popularity since starting out a dozen years ago. Now, he says, you see oysters everywhere: people are interested in them and they are a common topic of conversation. He thinks that education is paramount to this recent oyster mania. “People love knowledge,” he says. Notkin loves spreading his knowledge of oysters, whether it’s to do with their history, science or taste.
“I don’t quite understand our love affair with [oysters],” says Notkin. “There’s something about the oyster that, throughout history, throughout civilization, we see its presence,” Notkin says.
Did you know that the ancient Romans were the first oyster farmers? These are the kind of facts that Notkin can just site off-hand. From the way he speaks about them, it’s obvious that he adores oysters.
This month, Notkin is off to China to participate in his friend’s oyster festival. Soon after that, we’ll see this oyster legend on our very own waterfront. It’s his 4th year hosting the Nova Scotia Shucking Championship. He’s been on both sides of oyster competitions in his life, both as a host and a competitor himself. Of hosting he says, “it’s exhilarating.”