Chowderfest: 30 Years Of Food And Friendship

Photo by William Clanton

LONG BEACH ISLAND – Marking the 30th year of all that is chowder, Chowderfest came back to the Island, this time greater than ever. The weather was just perfect with barely any clouds in the sky, a nice warm island sun and a gentle, cool sea breeze.

The open field in the heart of Bay Village was packed so tight with locals, travelers and chowder epicureans, along with the many vendors that participated in this phenomenal event. Live music and the wonderful aroma of red, white creative chowders filled the air.

2018 brought the biggest crowds in 30 years of Chowderfest. (Photo by William Clanton)

The holy day of chowder kicked off on Sunday at 11 a.m. (10 a.m. for VIP access). All these things made this year’s Chowderfest one of the best years so far. With a record breaking 13,000 Chowderheads in attendance, the 30th annual event marked one of the largest ever. Restaurants from all across the LBI region, and even one group from as far as Ireland (Nancy’s Barn of Ballyliffin, Ireland), presented gallons of red (Manhattan), white (New England), and creative chowders; each with their own personal touch, flavor and story.

“Great weather, great restaurants. More people than ever before … So many people wanted to come. This has become more than just an event, this is something that people bring their families too,” said Chowderfest coordinator Todd Elasasser.

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The top three winners this year for red, white and creative chowders go to: Lefty’s Tavern once again for the best red (Manhattan) chowder, Howard’s Restaurant for the best white clam chowder, and Blue Water Cafe for the best creative chowder.

Howards takes the White win again. (Photo by William Clanton)

Of the many honorable mentions this year, the most unique chowder belongs to the WooHoo for their clam chowder ice cream. The ice cream itself actually contains clams, corn, butter and other seasonings, making it a genuine clam chowder ice cream. When questioned about their outrageous decision to make a chowder ice cream, Megan Kilroy, owner of the WooHoo in Beach Haven said, “We make all of our ice cream from scratch … We make tons of creative flavors of ice cream and just thought ‘why not?’.” After tasting it, several attendees had their own opinions on it.

Teresa Belotti a curious attendee tasted it, and when asked she said, “It has a great taste, it’s refreshing … It’s a little crazy, but we’re liking it.”

The event had initially kicked off this past Saturday with the free Merchant Market. This featured tons of chamber vendors offering great end-of-season bargains, local specialties, gourmet food and live music; as well as a wide variety of beers on tap, hard ciders and a new wine by the glass selection. There were also children friendly activities which included hands-on crafts and a command performance of Crunchy the T-Rex.

Returning Champion Lefty’s Tavern leads in the red category. (Photo by William Clanton)

They say the road to Chowderfest is a long one, but never quite as long as our friends from Ballyliffin, Ireland. With 3,162 miles under their belt, Kieran Doherty and his culinary team traveled all the way from Ireland just to participate in LBI’s 30th annual Chowderfest cook-off. Back in Ireland they won the national championship for the best chowder as well as the world’s best chowder back in Rhode Island.

“These people are just crazy about chowder and we are just blown away,” said Kieran Doherty, chef and owner of Nancy’s Barn.

The Southern Ocean Chamber of Commerce gave a special thanks to the 19 restaurants that pleased and fed crowds throughout the day. Those include: Blue Water Cafe, Cuisine on the Green at Atlantis, Delaware Avenue Oyster House & Bar, La Bamba, Nancy’s Barn Ballyliffin, Sunny Rae’s Kitchen, The WooHoo, Bistro 14 Restaurant & Raw Bar, Black Whale Bar & Fish House, Buckalew’s Restaurant & Tavern, Lefty’s Tavern, Ocean County College’s hospitality club, Stefano’s Restaurant, Country Kettle Chowda, Howard’s Seafood Restaurant, Polly’s Dock, The Chicken or the Egg (CHEGG), Tuckers Tavern and Wally’s.

Most Creative Booth: Delaware Oyster House. (Photo by William Clanton)

The closing ceremonies began with Tony Luke Jr., world renowned restaurant entrepreneur and competitive food network star, who took the stage to give special thanks and wish good luck to all the restaurants for their extraordinary efforts. Tony was responsive for the launching of the #brownandwhite initiative, designed to fight the stigma surrounding opioid and heroin addictions in memory of his son Anthony. Glenn Kalina from WJRZ FM served as Master of Ceremonies, with assistance by the Southern Ocean County Chamber Officers, Edible Jersey Publisher Ray Painter, Tony Luke Jr. and Chowderfest coordinator Todd Elsasser.

Blue Water Café is the most creative for 2018. (Photo by William Clanton)

Together they announced the winners of the event:

New England

  • Grand Champion: Howard’s Restaurant
  • 2nd Place: Chicken or the Egg
  • 3rd Place Country Kettle Chowda

  Manhattan

  • Grand Champion: Lefty’s
  • 2nd Place: Stefano’s
  • 3rd Place: Buckalews

  Creative Chowder

  • Grand Champion: Blue Water Café
  • 2nd Place: Nancy’s Barn
  • 3rd Place: The WooHoo
Kieran Doherty and his crew from Nancy’s Barn in Ireland is taking some hardware home. (Photo by William Clanton)

Rookie of the Year: Nancy’s Barn Ireland

Best Interpretation of the Theme: Country Kettle Chowda

Best Shore Motif: Black Whale Bar & Fish House

Most Enthusiastic: Nancy’s Barn Ireland

Most Creative Booth: Delaware Oyster House

In addition, the 2018 Grand Champions received a special recognition award from Edible NJ Magazine.

Crunchy the T-Rex made his annual appearance at Chowderfest. (Photo by William Clanton)

All of the proceeds earned from the event go directly to the hundreds of local charities and other events, as well as scholarships to the local school districts. Being that this was their 30th year, the previous year’s restaurants voted for a qualifying nonprofit to be the “Chowder for A Cause Charity.” The selected charity then earns a large portion of the proceeds of the event. David’s Dream & Believe Cancer Foundation was selected for this year and was there throughout the event.

OCC hospitality program student Rosie Melchiorri serving samples of their red chowder. (Photo by William Clanton)
Chowder ice cream from the Woohoo. (Photo by William Clanton)