The Toronto Chowder Chowdown

Twenty-four chefs participated in Chowder Chowdown held simultaneously at the Fairmount Royal York Toronto and the Vancouver Aquarium to benefit Ocean Wise on November 21.  Ocean Wise is a ‘Vancouver Aquarium conservation program created to educate and empower consumers about the issues surrounding sustainable seafood. Ocean Wise works directly with restaurants, markets, food services and suppliers ensuring that they have the most current scientific information regarding seafood and helping them make ocean-friendly buying decisions.’*

It was a grand evening at the Imperial Ballroom at the Fairmount Royal York where chefs and their teams spent day the preparing their unique chowders and getting ready for the hundreds that would be in attendance.  I love events but sometimes when there’s food around you have to fight your way to the food, so I get there early. Chowder pots simmering, garnishes being freshly prepped, last-minute details getting taking care of, i.e. the arrival of cold beers to go with the chowders.  I take the opportunity to visit the twelve stations and talk to some of the chefs about their chowders.  Inspiring and creative, each chef prepared their own take on chowder or created the classics like Evelyn’s Seafood Chowder, rich and creamy with lots of seafood.

I have to say that I was very impressed with the care given to meticulously garnish each small cup of chowder by the chefs.  Chef Richard Baksh of Earl’s patiently explained each element of the garnish to every guest that asked.  His very tasty Manilla Claim & Seafood Chowder was topped with bacon, tarragon oil and mache; the Royal York’s Chef Amira Becarevic and her team efficiently finished every cup with arugula pesto and chorizo oil.

Some unique twists and wonderful traditional chowder to be sampled.  The Toronto judges choice was Chef Albert Ponzo’s of  Le Select Bistro’s Seafood Chowder, one of my favourites too.  Chef Ponzo’s addition of chorizo enhanced the great flavour.  The People’s Choice award went to Richard Baksh’s of Earl’s Restaurant.  If you love seafood be watching for the date of next year’s event.  I know I will be back again.

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