Chowder contest making a return?

09/12/2013 4:00 PM |

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | The crew from the Blue Canoe giving out samples of their chowder during last year’s festival.

A grassroots movement to return the beloved chowder contest to this year’s Maritime Festival is underway in Greenport.

With the blessing of festival organizers and a little more than a week left until the big day, the Greenport Farmers’ Market is rushing to confirm enough contestants to revive the competition.

“The chowder contest is inline with our mission at the market as a community food vendor,” said manager KiKi Hurst. “It’s iconic.”

Ms. Hurst said she and fellow residents were inspired to bring back the long-running competition after the East End Seaport Museum decided to replace it with an oyster shucking event for the first time this year.

Last month, Seaport Museum chairman Ron Breuer said the move was not only an effort to better reflect Greenport’s legacy as an oystering community, but also because of the burdensome logistics of organizing the contest.

Participating restaurants were responsible for preparing up to 25 gallons of chowder each, not to mention delivering and properly heating it during the contest.

Establishing a space and covering the expense of renting tents to house the competition was also problematic.

Ms. Hurst said the farmers’ market already has in place a lot of the necessary elements needed to host the contest.

Mr. Breuer said the festival committee supports the endeavor.

“If they can get the resources, they are definitely a part of the festival,” he said.

Ms. Hurst said all the pieces of the puzzle are in place to make the chowder contest happen, but they still need to confirm the contestants.

“We don’t have enough chefs,” she said. “It’s not an event until we have participants.”

Ms. Hurst is in the process of reaching out to local restaurants, but said there would need to be at least eight confirmed contestants to make the contest viable.

The short notice isn’t deterring First & South in Greenport, who participated last year. Owner Sarah Phillips said she is in the process of finalizing the paperwork and fully intends to compete.

“It was definitely short notice, but we want to be a part of the tradition,” she said. “We couldn’t understand why they stopped it in the first place.”

Following a previous article published by the Suffolk Times, a number of readers agreed that ending the chowder contest was a bad idea.

“What’s wrong with clam chowder?” one commenter said. “It’s part of our life and maritime tradition. Why can’t we have both the chowder contest [and oysters]?”

If Ms. Hurst is successful, it appears that just might be the case.

Unlike previous years, the winner would not be crowned by a panel of judges, but rather a voting public. If the contest does happen, tasters would be charged $5 to enter, Ms. Hurst said.

The 24th annual Maritime Festival is scheduled for Sept. 21 and 22, with the opening reception the evening of Sept. 20.

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