Brandishing their “weapons” of choice – including ladles, spoons and pots – 38 top Ocean Wise chefs from three cities served up original, ocean-friendly chowder and beer pairings to more than 1,100 guests over the course of 48 hours, all in the name of sustainable seafood.

Starting in Calgary last Monday, where 11 chefs faced off in a friendly chowder cook-off at the first-ever Vancouver Aquarium Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown in Calgary, the competition then continued in Toronto the following evening among 14 chefs, followed by Vancouver last night with 13 chefs.

The competitions’ winners won over the judges and the crowds with their delectable, handmade chowders made with Ocean Wise seafood.

In Calgary, the evening’s victor was Chef Darren MacLean of downtownfood, who was crowned Calgary’s 2013 Chowder Chowdown Champion. Not to be outdone, CRAFT Beer Market won Best Chowder and Beer Pairing and Chef Rebecca House of Thomsons Restaurant at Hyatt Regency Calgary was chosen by over 200 guests as the winner of the People’s Choice award.

Chef Darren MacLean impressed the judges’ panel with his intriguing recipe for dtf Modern Chowder, which was inspired by Cambodian fish amok. The unique chowder featured bright flavours of galangal, red chiles and lime, balanced with the sweetness of Ocean Wise humpback prawn. Coconut milk provided a lovely richness and dense, white-flesh fish provided body and texture.

Meanwhile, Chef Rebecca House won over the crowds with her mouth-watering Seafood Chowder with a Smoked Tomato, Crab and Potato Cake, Ocean Wise Smoked Salmon and Crispy Kale Chips. Classic flavours of wine, cream and Ocean Wise clam juice were kissed with smokey cherry tomatoes and topped with an irresistible crab and potato cake.

It’s no surprise that CRAFT Beer Market won the award for the best chowder and craft beer pairing with its Ocean Wise Grey Cod, Chorizo and Chicharon Chowder paired with a casked Scottish Heavy Ale by Big Rock Brewery.

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More than 1,100 event guests attended the 2013 Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown in support of sustainable seafood. Photo credit: Vancouver Aquarium.

In Toronto, Chef Doug Neigel of Trattoria Mercatto was crowned by a celebrity judges panel as the 2013 Chowder Chowdown Champion, while Chef Leanne English of Sodexo Canada was chosen by nearly 340 event guests as winner of the People’s Choice award winner.

Chef Neigel impressed the judges’ panel with his drool-inducing recipe for Zuppa di Vongole chowder, featuring Ontario parsnip brood, Ontario chili squash butter, and crispy polenta-crusted littleneck clams. This winning chowder was paired with Double Trouble Brewery’s Prison Break Pilsner.

Meanwhile, Chef English won over the crowds with her mouth-watering Maritime Chowder, which boasted Ocean Wise scallops, Pacific halibut, Pacific cod and northern shrimp cooked with a savoury cream – this was paired with Double Trouble Brewery’s Hops and Robbers. And Pure Spirits Oyster House and Grill won the award for the best chowder-beer pairing – Guanciale, Smoked Littleneck Clam Chowder paired with Creemore Springs Altbier beer.

in Vancouver, a panel of celebrity judges sampled each mouth-watering chowder and crowned chef Chris Whittaker of Forage as 2013 Vancouver Aquarium Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown Champion in Vancouver. After indulging their taste buds in all 13 Ocean Wise chowders, guests at the event chose chef Ned Bell of YEW Restaurant + Bar as the winner of the People’s Choice award.

Chef Whittaker impressed the judges’ panel for the second year in a row with his enticing recipe for Creamy B.C. Spot Prawn Chowder, featuring the classic flavours of bacon, white wine and thyme, and finished with smokey chicharon and poached egg.

Winning the People’s Choice award among approximately 600 guests, Chef Bell’s choice of Ocean Wise humpback shrimp, pink peppercorn cream and B.C. Cranberry & Okanagan Apple Relish culminated in a mouth-watering chowder named The Big Red, which won the crowd’s allegiance with ease. Chef Paul Cecconi of Brodo Kitchen and Catering with CodFathers Seafood Market won the award for best pairing – Outlandish Mussel-Saffron Chowder paired with Red Racer ESB beer by Central City Brewers and Distillers.

In each city, the Chowder Chowdown Champions were selected by an expert panel of judges with extensive food experience:


  • Michael Allemeier l Chef and Instructor at SAIT
  • Rick Therrien l Albion Fisheries
  • John Gilchrist l Food Journalist
  • Dan Clapson l Food Journalist


  • Martin Kouprie l Pangaea Restaurant
  • Jamie Drummond l Good Food Revolution
  • Brad Long l Café Belong at Evergreen Brick Works
  • Agatha Podgorski l Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance
  • Andrea Nicholson l Food Network Host, Restaurant Takeover


  • Guy Dean l Albion Fisheries Ltd.
  • Rob Clark l The Fish Counter and Ocean Wise chef partner
  • Chester Carey l Serious Beer program instructor and certified cicerone
  • Sid Cross l Food and wine aficionado
  • Andrew Morrison l Scout Magazine
  • Tim Pawsey l Food and wine journalist
  • Jamie Maw l Food and wine journalist

Annually, the Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown raises consumer awareness about the importance of choosing sustainable Ocean Wise seafood, and is also the signature fundraising initiative of the year. This year’s Chowdowns would not have been possible without the support of our sponsors and partners:

  • Huge appreciation goes to supplier partners Albion Fisheries and Allseas Fisheries Corp., Colourtime and Saint Bernadine for their support of all three events.
  • Calgary’s event was made possible with the support of Hyatt Regency Calgary and Shell Canada Limited. Our thanks are also shared with media partners Calgary is Awesome and XL103.1 FM.
  • In Toronto, huge thanks go to Distillery Events and blogger media partner Toronto is Awesome.
  • In Vancouver, our appreciation goes to major sponsors Transtar and Shell Canada Limited, as well as media partner CTV BC.

During Ocean Wise month this November, consumers are invited to join the sustainable seafood movement by eating ocean-friendly seafood to keep our oceans healthy. Look for the Ocean Wise symbol next to a seafood item for the Vancouver Aquarium’s assurance of an ocean-friendly seafood choice. For sustainable seafood on the go, download the Ocean Wise iPhone app. For more information, visit





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