Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown 2016

Salmon and Tamarind Chowder a la Mekong by Chef Thompson Tran of the Wooden Boat

Salmon and Tamarind Chowder a la Mekong by Chef Thompson Tran of The Wooden Boat (winner of chowder and beer pairing)

The 9th Annual Ocean Wise Seafood Chowder Chowdown was a huge success at a great event hosted by the Vancouver Aquarium on November 16th. This event saw a packed house of 700 people sampling many or all of the fourteen chowders from BC’s top Ocean Wise restaurants from around the Vancouver, and Vancouver Island, all of the chowders were paired with BC craft brews and the suggested beers were listed along each of the restaurants chowders.

This annual event, which takes place during Ocean Wise Month, brings together some of the region’s culinary heavyweights as they vie to have their chowder recipe be crowned the winner.

This year, a judging panel of food-savvy media and esteemed chefs selected Chef Aaron Rail of Courtenay, B.C.’s White Whale as the 2016 Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown Champion. The judging panel was wowed by the chef team’s Ultimate Chowder. Featuring a mélange of Ocean Wise seafood including lingcod, trap-caught Dungeness crab, spot prawns and hand-harvested clams, and enhanced with bacon, sweet corn and a hint of parsley, the chowder had the crowd buzzing and mouths watering.  White Whale also took home the People’s Choice Award, selected by hundreds of chowder lovers who cast their vote. It was deliciously paired with Hoyne Brewing Company’s Appleton Extra Special Bitter.

There were a number of other crisp, refreshing beer options from some of the province’s top breweries.  Parkside Brewery’s Seasons Rye Saison and The Wooden Boat’s Salmon & Tamarind Chowder à la Mekong (Canh Chua Ca Chowder) from Chef Thompson Tran took home the award for Best Pairing.

Chef Ned Bell’s (Vancouver Aquarium) Black Gold Mussel Chowder garnished with a Gourgere

Chef Ned Bell’s (Vancouver Aquarium) Black Gold Mussel Chowder garnished with a Gourgere

Chef Jefferson Alvarez (Cacao Vancouver) BC Sturgeon Coconut Chowder

Chef Jefferson Alvarez (Cacao Vancouver) BC Sturgeon Coconut Chowder

Chef Thompson Tran (The Wooden Boat) Salmon and Tamarind Chowder a la Mekong

Chef Thompson Tran (The Wooden Boat) Salmon and Tamarind Chowder a la Mekong

Chef John McManus (Vancouver Fish Co) Savary Island Clam Chowder Poutine

Chef John McManus (Vancouver Fish Co) Savary Island Clam Chowder Poutine

Chef Karan Suri (ARC Dining) PNW Sablefish and Humback Shrimp Chowder

Chef Karan Suri (ARC Dining) PNW Sablefish and Humback Shrimp Chowder

Chef Jason Sokulski (Feast) Double Smoked Bacon & Mussel Chowder

Chef Jason Sokulski (Feast) Double Smoked Bacon & Mussel Chowder

Chef Chris Oliveira (Fable Diner) Spicy Chorizo, Corn and Smoked Halibut Bisque

Chef Chris Oliveira (Fable Diner) Spicy Chorizo, Corn and Smoked Halibut Bisque

I tried several of the array of chowders and their suggested beer pairings which included Chef Ned Bell’s (Vancouver Aquarium) Black Gold Mussel Chowder garnished with a Gourgere; Chef Jefferson Alvarez (Cacao Vancouver) BC Sturgeon Coconut Chowder; Chef Thompson Tran (The Wooden Boat) Salmon and Tamarind Chowder a la Mekong; Chef John McManus (Vancouver Fish Co) Savary Island Clam Chowder Poutine; Chef Karan Suri (ARC Dining) PNW Sablefish and Humback Shrimp Chowder; Chef Jason Sokulski (Feast) Double Smoked Bacon & Mussel Chowder; and Chef Chris Oliveira (Fable Diner) Spicy Chorizo, Corn and Smoked Halibut Bisque.

Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown showcased 14 top Ocean Wise chefs in total, who all joined the sustainable seafood movement by bringing the heat to this friendly competition. Chowders featured an impressive array of seafood, from geoduck to sablefish.

Chef Ned Bell

Chef Ned Bell

The guys from Steel & Oak Brewery

The guys from Steel & Oak Brewery

The team from Feast

The team from Feast

Chefs of the Vancouver Fish Co.

Chefs of the Vancouver Fish Co.

Strange Fellows Brewing

Strange Fellows Brewing

Chef Karan Suri

Chef Karan Suri

Red Racer Beer

Red Racer Beer

Ocean Wise began as a grassroots movement in Vancouver in 2005 and is now Canada’s most recognizable sustainable seafood program. What began as an initiative involving 16 chefs has expanded to include more than 675 partners with locations from Victoria to St. John’s.  In addition to Chowder Chowdown in Vancouver, Ocean Wise Month is being celebrated with similar events in Toronto, Calgary and Wolfville and partners across Canada are sharing their stories about sustainability using the hashtag #OceanWise Month.

By: Richard Wolak