Vancouver Aquarium entrance

Last night, the Vancouver Aquarium hosted the 4th Annual Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown. The event was very well attended (sold out in advance) and had a slightly different feel than last year’s competition.

2011 Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown
[Mindil Beach Markets]

One thing I noticed was the judges seating area. Rather than last year’s large table seating at the stage, Victoria’s Mindil Beach Markets played a few sets there instead.

2011 Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown judges

The judges were off to the side and included Chef Robert Clark of C restaurant, Guy Dean from Albion Fisheries, Sid Cross from The Chef’s Table Society of B.C., Chester Carey, Certified Cicerone and Jamie Maw, Food Editor.

CTV's Michael Kuss, event emcee
[CTV’s Michael Kuss, event emcee]

This year’s emcee was CTV meteorologist Michael Kuss.

Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts students
[Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts students]

Hapa Izakaya chefs at work
[Hapa Izakaya chefs at work]

YEW Restaurant serving dried apple as a finishing touch
[YEW Restaurant serving dried Gala apple for the finishing touch to their chowder]

The Noodle Box chefs
[Chefs from The Noodle Box]

Again this year, 12 chowders were paired with craft BC beers (and one BC wine). All chowders were prepared using Ocean Wise sanctioned fish. It was a challenge at times to find the proper beer to pair with the dishes, mostly due to the large crowd at each table.

2011 Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown 2011 Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown 2011 Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown Silent auction items

As well, a silent auction continued until the end of the evening, with some great dining experiences and craft beer packages to be had.

Serving up Vancouver Island Double Decker IPA

I did find a few great pairings in the Vancouver Island Brewery’s new Double Decker IPA, served with The Noodle Box’s chowder that included spot prawns, Fanny Bay oysters, albacore tuna and Dungeness crab. Very tasty together!

Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts students

I had two favourites of the 11 chowders I tasted (I was too full to sample each chowder’s beer!). My top choice was the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts’ chowder that included a chile and lime-infused cotton candy-wrapped smoked prawn. Dunked into the soup, it was about the most unique and flavourful combination I encountered during the event. Kudos to Chef Chester Velas and his students for this amazing chowder!

Chef Ned Bell of YEW Restaurant and bar at work
[Chef Ned Bell of YEW Restaurant at the Four Seasons]

My second choice went to Chef Ned Bell of YEW Restaurant at the Four Seasons Vancouver, who actually won the night’s best chowder and beer pairing. His Smoked Black Cod and Gala Apple Chowder was paired with Driftwood Brewery’s Farmhand Ale.

Local Lounge and Grille
[Local Lounge and Grille]

Chef Paul Cecconi of Local Lounge and Grille won for his Smoked Outlandish Oyster Chowder. The People’s Choice Award was handed to Chef Natasha Harris of Sunset Bay Yacht Group for her chowder featuring Ocean Wise scallops, clams and mussels, sherry, organic celery and Yukon gold baby potatoes.

Hapa Izakaya's Chan Chan Chowder
[Hapa Izakaya’s Chan Chan Chowder]

The 12 chowder-creating restaurants that competed:
Eric Pless, Coast Restaurant
Tyler Groenestyn, Codfathers Seafood Market
Jennifer Dodd, Edible Canada  
Daiji Tanaka, Hapa Izakaya Kitsilano       
Paul Cecconi, Local Lounge and Grille
Nicholas Crooks, The Noodle Box
Chris Whittaker, O’Douls Restaurant and Bar
Chester Velas, Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts
Natasha Harris, Sunset Bay Yacht Group
Ron Gibb, Westward Ho! Public House, Grill Room at the University Golf Club
Myke Shaw and Kelsey Timler, Vancouver Aquarium    
Ned Bell, YEW restaurant, Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver bar

2011 Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown Bee Bop Beluga, Vancouver Aquarium mascot
[Bee Bop Beluga, Vancouver Aquarium mascot]

More photos from the evening can be found on my Flickr set.

About Ocean Wise: Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program is a nationwide sustainable seafood initiative, working closely with restaurants, markets, and suppliers to help them sell seafood that has been harvested in a sustainable manner. The continued success of both Ocean Wise Month and the Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown help raise awareness for sustainable seafood and conservation initiatives across the nation.


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