BEACH HAVEN – While Labor Day may signal the end of summer for many, only true locals know that summer officially culminates with Long Beach Island’s annual Chowderfest.
On October 5 and 6, thousands of “chowderheads” flocked to Beach Haven for the annual event, sending off the 2019 summer season with tons of beer, wine, and – of course – chowder. Despite cloudy skies, the scent of red and white chowders warmed the air and festival attendees relished in the chilly fall weather while milling about the Bay Village area, chowder samples in hand.
Hosted by the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce, the 31st Annual Chowderfest weekend brought out 13,506 chowder enthusiasts, beating out last year’s record-breaking 13,000.
“Chowderfest was created to extend the local economy and promote tourism past the traditional Labor Day Weekend. The Sunday October 6 Cook Off was a tremendous success for the entire region,” stated Lori A. Pepenella, Chief Executive Officer of the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce.
Since its inception, Chowderfest has grown larger each year, attracting attendees and chowder cooks from all over the country, from states such as California, Connecticut, Colorado, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Georgia, Florida, Virginia, Michigan, Maryland, Massachusetts and Maine. Last year’s event even saw a competitor all the way from Ballyliffin, Ireland.
The Merchant Mart set up shop throughout Bay Village, featuring tons of local vendors, sidewalk sales, and great deals. The Merchant Mart is always free to the public, a precursor to the main event.
And then, the Chowder Cook-Off Classic kicked off. This year’s cook-off showcased mainly local competitors from the Ocean County area including: Kubel’s Too, Chicken or the Egg, Hotel LBI, Ocean County College Hospitality Program with booth design from Stockton University, Bread & Brine, Lefty’s Tavern, Mainland Kitchen & Pub, Cluck N’ Crabs, Shore Fire Grille, Bistro 14, Black Whale Bar & Fish House, Country Kettle Chowda, La Bamba, The Woo Hoo, Cuisine on the Green at Atlantis, and Parker’s Garage & Oyster Saloon.
While festival-goers indulged in their favorite red, white, or creative chowder selections, live music raged on from the main stage, courtesy of The Impulsives.
At 4 p.m., the taste testing commenced and the 2019 Chowderfest winners were announced by members of the Chowderfest Committee, led by event coordinator Todd Elsasser.
For New England (white):
- Grand Champion: The Chicken Or The Egg
- 2nd Place: Hotel LBI
- 3rd Place: Kubel’s Too
The Chicken of The Egg moved up from their second place win in 2018. Members of the “Chegg” team cheered and high-fived their way to the main stage to accept their hard-earned award.
For Manhattan (red):
- Grand Champion: Lefty’s Tavern
- 2nd Place: Shore Fire Grille
- 3rd Place: Bistro 14
Lefty’s Tavern remains on top as the reigning champion of Manhattan chowder. Lefty’s Tavern walked away with two awards this year, also nabbing the title of Most Enthusiastic.
The Southern Chamber also noted that Shore Fire Grille’s second place win is dedicated to the memory of the late Timothy Kohlheim. Kohlheim’s wife Samantha led the “Tim’s Tribe” team to the stage for their trophy.
Winners for Creative Seafood:
- Grand Champion: Country Kettle Chowda for their lobster bisque
- 2nd Place: La Bamba Mexican Restaurant
- 3rd Place: Parker’s Garage & Oyster Saloon
- Rookie of the Year: Hotel LBI
- Best Shore Motif: Country Kettle Chowda
- Most Creative Booth: La Bamba Mexican Restaurant
“These fantastic establishments prepared, cooked and served over 2,880 gallons of Manhattan, New England and Creative Soup,” stated Pepenella.
All proceeds from the annual event benefit the Southern Chamber’s ongoing business programs, operate the region’s official visitor center, support local projects, and assist with grant funding and destination marketing campaigns throughout the year.
Although the 2019 Chowderfest is still pretty close in our rearview mirror, the Chowderfest Committee has already begun plans for a spectacular 32nd Chowderfest Weekend scheduled for October 3 & 4, 2020.