Mike Langley, co-owner of the Tide and Vine Oyster Co., poses with a box of oysters outside his flagship restaurant in Niagara Falls.
Photo: Tide and Vine Oyster Co.
The co-owner of Niagara's only oyster house and a Canadian Oyster Shucking champ is taking his talent overseas in pursuit of international glory on the world stage.
Mike Langley, co-owner of Niagara’s Tide and Vine Oyster Co., is making the trek to Beijing, China this week to compete among 30 of the world’s best oyster openers in Shuck Off, an event established in 2016 as the country’s first national oyster competition. It has since grown into the country’s largest international oyster festival and is dedicated to creating meaningful gastronomic experiences in one of the most dynamic culinary scenes in the world.
For Langley, competing means a chance to have fun and test his mettle against some of the industry’s best.
“I feel very at home in the shucking competition environment,” he said. Langley won the title of Canadian Oyster Shucking champion at the world competition in Ireland in 2013. “The camaraderie felt between shuckers is a wonderful thing. I’ve pitted against some of the best shuckers in the world in the past and it’s definitely nerve-wracking. So you try not to take it too seriously while giving it your best.”
Shucking has become a popular activity in China since oyster culture has exploded over the past decade. The Chinese are now eating an estimated 30 million raw, imported oysters per year. By connecting local people with shellfish experts, oyster farmers and suppliers as well as passionate culinary artisans from around the world, Shuck Off provides a unique platform in which to share knowledge, educate newcomers to the world of oysters, and inspire a new generation of oyster lovers.
Langley, who was born and raised in Niagara Falls, has spent years traveling the world and picking up ideas along the way. He now owns Tide and Vine with his wife Kat Steeves. The couple’s dream came true in 2012, when they left downtown Toronto to return to purchase a 1974 VW camper (affectionately named “Pearl the Shuck Truck”), and begin shucking oysters throughout Niagara. They have since become part of the fabric of the region’s thriving food community and opened a flagship restaurant in Niagara Falls.
As for what motivates him to keep honing his skills, he says he often compares shucking to “a perfect balance between blue-collar labour and artistic expression. Like anything, the better you get at it, the more rewarding it is. Oysters are just a perfect culinary gift.”
The oyster craze has hit Niagara as well - in fact, Langley’s passion is part of the reason Oyster Fest Niagara is back for its sixth straight year in 2018. The event is coming up on June 10 and showcases some of Niagara's favourite wine, beer and food purveyors along with local musical guests. There’s even the Niagara Shucking Championships, and Langley is looking forward to cheering on competitors and sharing the day with the region’s tight-knit culinary community and 1,200+ attendees.
“We can’t wait for our 6th Oyster Fest Niagara - it’s wonderful to have shuckers travel to this amazing region,” said Langley, adding the festival has shifted locations throughout its history. This year, it will be hosted at Eagle Valley Golf Club in Niagara Falls, where attendees will enjoy a beautiful backdrop for a unique food & beverage experience.
“We’ve seen a huge increase in the popularity of oysters in Niagara - not only are we shucking more, but the number of restaurants we deliver oysters to has tripled in the last five years.”
The oyster boom and his business’s success reminds Langley to stay grounded, and to keep traveling and continually seek new opportunities to learn and grow.
“It’s easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day of work. A desk and computer can be magnetic and hold you there,” he said.
“I often find that when I do go out, to the next town or someone else’s restaurant locally, I realize that the Tide and Vine was built on the experiences of myself and my wife. We need to continue to explore and it’s a grace to be able to share what we do with others, while we are exploring what they themselves do.”
Purchase your ticket for Oyster Fest at tideandvine.com/oysterfestniagara/.
June 2 to 3
Downtown St. Catharines and across Niagara
Niagara VegFest is a multi-site annual event that takes place in downtown St. Catharines, and the Niagara Region.
The festival is a celebration of the many benefits of a healthy, compassionate, plant-based lifestyle, and showcases exhibitors, vendors, and speakers from the Niagara region and beyond.
Niagara VegFest is a registered not-for-profit.
Photo: Niagara VegFest website
June 9 to 16
Meridian Centre, St. Catharines
Get ready to see one of the most exciting basketball events in our Region as it puts a spotlight on the future stars of the sport and serves as an important international platform in their development process.
Don’t miss this Championship as it delivers an iconic experience for Canada and the Niagara Region as a whole.
Games schedules will be announced closer to the tournament. Tournament packages for $135, and single-game tickets starting as low as $10 are on sale now at Ticketmaster.
Other exciting events include a family-friendly street festival to kick things off on June 9th in downtown St. Catharines, and The Jr. NBA World Championship Canada Regional from June 15-17 at the Meridian Centre and Brock University. Visit the Canadian Basketball Website and Canada Games Facebook page for more information.
Eagle Valley Golf Course, Niagara Falls
Tide and Vine's Oyster Fest Niagara will kick off the summer season with a splash for the sixth straight year!! Showcasing some of Niagara's favourite wine, beer and food purveyors along with local musical guests.
Tickets available online.
See these and more photos of this month's events on our Facebook page, and be sure to 'Like' us! Get out and enjoy all Niagara has to offer!
HandMade Market - 13th Street Winery, St. Catharines
Photos: Allison Smith
Photos from our Media Partner
Niagara Falls Elvis Festival - Greg Frewin Theatre, Niagara Falls
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