Daffy Doug Austin Captures Keys Fisheries Crab Crown
by Jason Koler
Stacked against a field of stone crab aficionados from as far away as Europe, local businessman “Daffy Doug” Austin cracked 25 stone crabs in less than 20 minutes to become the very first Keys Fisheries Stone Crab Eating Champion.
Sporting dark, wrap around goggles and Tilden’s Dive Shop tshirt, the exhausted eater cited mental toughness and advanced, cracking technology shortly after fulfilling a lifelong dream.
“I was bound and determined to stay focused,” he said triumphantly in a post-contest media event. “And I had goggles on me to keep from becoming paranoid.”
The daffy devourer also showered praise on his his beloved wife and eating coach – LeAnne. Just moments before the shells began flying, she delivered a large, silver spoon reminiscent of the treasures uncovered by Mel Fisher. Event organizers provided commercial cracking devices for the entrants, but more than a couple of the crafty crustacean consumers relied on just a simple, yet effective spoon.
Austin finished 25 stone crabs in exactly 16 minutes and ten seconds – nearly four minutes before the next closest entrant, but received numerous time violations from the stingy, shell-inspecting judges that included Organized Fishermen of Florida reps Bennett Orr and Barbara Hewlett.
Keys Fisheries own bartender, Vanessa Severens, placed second with a Miami resident Richard Cossio placing third in a field of 21 contestants.
Keys Fisheries general manager Joe Caligiuri said it was Severans who cracked the idea.
When it was proposed to boss, Gary Graves, “we just ran with it.”
Caligiuri said he is already in the planning stages for the second event to be held a week after the 2012 stone crab season opens.