This week, I made my first visit to the Fairmount Royal York Hotel, as a guest of Ocean Wise for their third annual Chowder Chowdown - Toronto Edition. Twelve local chefs brought their seafood a-game, using sustainable fish dishes to be judged by the public and by a panel of expert judges.
For anyone who hasn't heard about Ocean Wise, they are an organization, part of the Vancouver Aquarium, whose mission it is 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.
The 12 soups were paired with a selection of beers from Rickard’s, Granville Island Brewery, Creemore Springs Brewery Limited, with the seafood provided by Allseas Fisheries Corp. The participating chefs came from all over the Toronto area and outskirts to dish up their takes on this classic soup. I managed to sample 11 of the 12 on offer, only missing out the one from Starfish.
- Coconut & Red Curry Seafood Chowder - Stacey Blois (Western University Canada)
- Sweet Corn, Berkshire Bacon & Dungeness Crab Chowder - Morgan Wilson (Trios Bistro at the Toronto Downtown Marriott, Eaton Centre)
- Manilla Clam & Seafood Chowder - Richard Baksh (Earl's Kitchen & Bar)
- Manhattan Seafood Chowder with Chorizo - Alexandra Gaponovitch (Calphalon Culinary Centre
- Chef Ponzo's Seafood Chowder - Albert Ponzo (Le Select Bistro)
- Leek Potato Chowder with Warm Salmon & Mussel Salad - Amira Becarevic (EPIC at the Fairmont Royal York)
- Hapa Sake Clam Chowder - Takayuki Sato (Hapa Izakaya)
- Manhattan Corn & Juniper Smoked Whitefish Chowder with Jalapeno Cornbread - Shaun Edmonstone (Bruce Wine Bar)
- Coconut & Red Curry Clam Chowder - David Kokai (Loic Gourmet)
- BC Oyster Chowder - Kristin Donovan (Hooked Inc.)
- Shucker Paddy's Hogtown Chowder - Patrick McMurray (Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill)
- Evelyn's Seafood Chowder - Thomas Heitz (Port Restaurant)
It didn't take long, about 6 soups in, to remember how hearty and filling chowder really is. But I powered through to determine some of my favourites. The offering from Hooked had an intriguing sour note with a nice silky texture. The enormous oyster in it lent a delicate richness. Another favourite was Stacey Blois' red curry chowder. it was an interesting take on chowder with discs of new potatoes in a curry broth. Very tasty.
My fellow tasters picked Chef Baksh's Manilla clam chowder as their favourite for People's Choice, while the judges, including Chefs Jamie Kennedy and Carl Heinrich, decided that Chef Ponzo's offering "presented a truly unstoppable mix of flavours and ingredients, resulting in a winning recipe."
Many thanks to the chefs, the sponsors and especially to Ocean Wise, not only for the invite, but for all the work they do to help protect our oceans and all the tasty creatures in them. Ocean Wise month runs until the end of November, and you can find out more about how to choose sustainable seafood in stores and restaurants here.