Spoons were out, ladles were full of chowder and beer was flowing at three separate Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown events this month, as notable chef partners in Ontario, Alberta and B.C. brought their best recipes to the table. Every November during Ocean Wise Seafood Month, this event brings together some of the top stars and sustainability champions in each region.
“Chowder Chowdown is a celebration of the amazing culinary scene in all three provinces and the people who have helped it grow, including food lovers, industry leaders and chef partners,” said Ann-Marie Copping, Ocean Wise seafood program manager. “The energy at each event was palpable, as guests buzzed about their favourite chowders and cast their votes for the top prizes. Everyone there is united in their support of sustainable seafood, helping to ensure our oceans are healthy and flourishing for generations to come.”
Chowder Chowdowns went down in Calgary, Toronto and Vancouver. This year marked the 10th anniversary of the event in Vancouver, and the All-Star Edition brought back past winners from near and far.
A judging panel of food-savvies selected Chef Julian Bond and team as the 2017 Ocean Wise Seafood Chowder Chowdown champions in Vancouver. They presented chowder lovers with a colourful twist, serving their Witches Brew chowder with a pea base and delicious bites of bacon and B.C. sidestripe shrimp — a combo that left the judges wanting more. The award for Best Beer Pairing went to Chef Yosuke Okubo of Hapa Izakaya for their Japanese-Style Rhode Island Chowder, which featured a dashi broth and shinjo dumplings made with Ocean Wise little neck clams. The crowd of several hundred had their say too, and voted Brodo Kitchen as the People’s Choice Award winner, selected for Chef Paul Cecconi’s Smoked Albacore Tuna Belly Chowder with Truffled Cauliflower Puree, Fennel-Spiced Buckboard Bacon, Confit Sunchoke and Lemonpeel Doughnut, and Pickled Ambrosia Apple and Mustard Seed.
In Toronto, for the second year in a row, Chefs Chris Torgis and Joel Gray from of Bruce Wine Bar took home the 2017 Ocean Wise Seafood Chowder Chowdown Champions title. The Thornbury-based restaurant presented chowder lovers with their patriotic Canada 150 Coast to Coast Chowder. It featured a mélange of sustainable seafood, including Ontario farmed Pacific shrimp, Gulf of St. Lawrence crab, Lake Huron smoked whitefish and wild Pacific ikura, complemented by local corn velouté, wild leek pesto and pickled roots and left the judges wanting more.
The Toronto crowd voted Scout Canning as the People’s Choice Award winner, selected for their Scout’s Scullery Soup, made with clams, mussels and haddock.
Chef Matthias Fong and River Cafe team were crowned the 2017 Ocean Wise Seafood Chowder Chowdown Champions in Calgary. They presented chowder lovers with their twist on a classic chowder, serving a chilled Manhattan clam chowder. It featured bacon sabayon, clam nectar gelée and tomato jam that left the judges wanting more.
The award for Best Beer Pairing went to Chef Peter Paiva at host restaurant Raw Bar at the Hotel Arts for their Tom Yum Chowder, which was paired with The Grizzly Paw’s Sou’wester New England IPA. Deane House took home the People’s Choice Award, selected for Chef Jamie Harling’s Clam and Merguez Chowder, a perfectly creamy dish topped with sourdough crostini.
There were breweries from across each province pouring everything from lime pilsner to dark lager, oyster stout to spicy winter ale and, pineapple IPA to refreshing lagers and wheat beers. Guests could also quench their thirst with the perfect, sustainable caesar from Ocean Wise seafood partner Walter Caesar and other delicious beverages from Wayward Distillation House, Georgian Bay Spirit Co., and Dillon’s vodka.
The Ocean Wise seafood program began as a grassroots movement in Vancouver in 2005 and is now Canada’s most recognizable sustainable seafood program. What started as an initiative involving 16 chefs has expanded to include more than 700 partners with locations from Victoria to St. John’s.