We were strolling through a relatively predictable street fair on Columbus Avenue yesterday when we came across this sign:

oystersign.JPG

We've been critical of Jacques-Imo's in the past, but when they start offering all the raw gulf oysters you can eat for $10, and then making a contest out of it, we have to pay attention.

oystercontest1.jpg

Whole trays of oysters passed in front of the intrepid contestants, each of them vying to beat the world record for raw-oyster eating: 36 dozen oysters in 10 minutes (roughly one oyster every 1.4 seconds). Any who accomplished this feat would win a free vacation to the Big Easy, Jacques' home town.

The whistle blows, and they're off:

oystercontest2.jpg

Gothamist was tempted to throw our hat into the ring, but after having eaten our way up Columbus Avenue (and seeing trays of shucked raw oysters sitting on un-iced trays in the sun), we lacked the intestinal fortitude. We were also a bit put off by the legal release all contestants were required to sign:

I agree not to hold Jacques-Imo's Restaurant NYC, it's employees, agents, licensors, etc. and anyone affiliated with Jacques-Imo's responsible for the consequences of ingesting raw oysters.

Even in a month ending in "R", that kind of language is pretty intimidating. Which is why we marveled when we watched this guy go to work:

oystercontest3.jpg

Meet "Jeff", who we understand is a hypnotherapist and raw-foodist from the Upper East Side. Jeff was the hero of the second round of the oyster eating contest. He cleared a whole tray of oysters before his opponents finished a dozen. When the shuckers were unable to keep pace with him, he started raiding other contestants' trays, and the raw bar behind him. The referee had to stop the clock, in fairness, to allow Jeff's oyster supply to be replenished. For the last five minutes of the contest, the crowd was chanting: "Jeff needs more oysters!" When the buzzer sounded, Jeff had sucked down two hundred and forty three raw oysters. And he was still looking for more.

The astonishing thing is that at the end of two rounds, this gut-heaving performance placed Jeff in THIRD PLACE for the day. First place belonged to a glutton who had earlier packed away two hundred ninety eight oysters in ten minutes. We didn't stick around until the end of the day to see the winner crowned, but we can't help but wonder whether he/she was able to make it, or was otherwise indisposed.