Miami resident Juan Mallen took top honors at the annual Stone Crab Eating Contest Saturday in the Florida Keys.
Mallen, a 49-year-old commercial appliance technician, cracked and ate 25 stone crab claws in 12 minutes and 54 seconds, besting the old record by more than two minutes. He has been trying to win the contest for six years, but always previously finished as a runner-up.
“I’ve been trying and trying, and I finally got it together,” Mallen said. “I actually cracked everything first, then I ate it real fast like I always did. So, put it together, and I think that’s what did it.
“The secret to win is to crack the stone crabs faster than anybody else,” Mallen said. “And especially the elbow, is very hard to break. But that’s the trick, right there.”
Greg D’Agostino paired this year with fellow Marathon, Florida, resident GiGi Zavistauskaite to claim his third consecutive top team title, and post his fastest finish time of 7:38.
The lively contest tasked competitors with picking cracked claws completely clean. No claw meat could be left uneaten, lest risking a time penalty.
The event attracted 40 competitors who participated in both individual and team categories. To win, contestants had to crack and eat 25 stone crab claws in the fastest time.
The Florida Keys is Florida’s top regional supplier of the world-renowned delicacy — considered a renewable resource because of the crabs’ ability to re-grow harvested claws.
About 40 percent of the state’s stone crab harvest that averages more than 2 million pounds annually comes from Keys waters, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Stone crab season runs from Oct. 15 to May 15.