Brash Newcomers Face Big Names in New Orleans

When he takes the stage at the French Quarter Festival for Acme’s World Oyster Eating Championship, Robert Passman will be competing in his first IFOCE event. He is nothing if not confident.

“I will down north of 400 in the first five minutes,” says the 46-year-old Mississippi native. “I’ll crush the record out of the gate and then kick back and enjoy whatever oysters remain.”

Another newcomer, Atlanta’s Ken Tittle, is more deferential. The six foot, 175-pound Georgia Tech grad says he loves Louisiana Oysters and knows he can hold his own. He admits to being excited if a bit uneasy to be competing in the first major of the year. “I bring game for sure, but as a rookie I must be careful. I can't lose focus on the big names.”

Tittle will indeed face some big names. While Boyd Bulot (record holder at 18 dozen in 10 minutes) and Moe Ribs Molesky are not competing in the annual oyster battle, Crazy Legs Conti and Crawfish Nick will return for their third straight year. But even more exciting to eating fans in the southeast is the addition of Eric Badlands Booker and Sonya Thomas.

“Sonya and Badlands are pushing the Acme event to new heights,” said Kevin Pearce who plans to drive seven plus hours from his ranch home in Tom Ball, TX to witness the contest in New Orleans. “With Bulot out of the picture I figured Conti might regain his title, but with these two eaters present Conti will need to down well over 20 dozen to be in contention.”

If Passman’s boasts are bona fide, 20 dozen may be just a start. Numbers aside, the Acme World Oyster Eating Championship has certainly matured attracting top-ranked eaters to New Orleans with the hopes of securing the title and its associated cash prize. And as always, the event is a stepping off point for promising newcomers.

The 2004 Acme Oyster Eating Contest will occur at the Acme Stage between the river and the Aquarium of the Americas from 2 to 4:30 on April 17th. It is sponsored by Acme Oyster House, Barq’s Root Beer, the Louisiana Seafood Promotions and Marketing Board, Tabasco Brands, Land Rover, The French Quarter Festival and the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas.