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Chef Paul Cecconi of Local Lounge-Grille named Vancouver's 2011 Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown Champion

Food editor Jamie Maw, Chef Paul Cecconi and Vancouver Aquarium’s President and CEO, Dr. John Nightingale - Photo by Keith Robertson

The most inventive and delicious sustainable seafood chowder as determined by a panel of judges, and crowned Vancouver Aquarium’s fourth annual Ocean Wise Seafood Chowder Chowdown Champion on November 23, 2011, was awarded to chef Paul Cecconi of Local Lounge-Grille.

 “It was a difficult decision for the judges this year but they unanimously agreed the delectable combination of smoked Ocean Wise Out Landish oysters with parsnips, squash and brown butter bread crumbs in chef Paul Cecconi’s chowder was the well deserved winner of this year’s Vancouver Aquarium Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown,” said Mike McDermid, Ocean Wise partner relationship manager. 

“Year after year, chefs make a culinary prouesse by creating unique and creative recipes highlighting the very best of Ocean Wise’s sustainable seafood options.”

Competing for the Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown championship:
•    Eric Pless – Coast Restaurant
•    Tyler Groenestyn – Codfathers Seafood Market
•    Jennifer Dodd – Edible Canada
•    Daiji Tanaka – Hapa Izakaya Kitsilano
•    Paul Cecconi – Local Lounge-Grille
•    Nicholas Crooks – The Noodle Box
•    Chris Whittaker – O’Doul’s Restaurant and Bar
•    Chester Velas – Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts
•    Natasha Harris – Sunset Bay Yacht Group
•    Ron Gibb – Westward Ho! Public House and Grill Room
•    Myke Shaw and Kelsey Timler – Vancouver Aquarium
•    Ned Bell – YEW restaurant + bar at the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver

Over 550 guests sampled the chefs’ creations and each savory Ocean Wise chowder was paired with a thirst-quenching local craft beer to highlight its flavor profile. 7 local brews sourced by Vancouver Craft Beer Week organizers included: Crannog Ales, Driftwood Brewery, Granville Island Brewery, Lighthouse Brewing Company, Red Truck Brewing Company and Vancouver Island Brewing Company.

Presiding over the night was CTV’s Michael Kuss as emcee. Guests mingled amongst the backdrop of sea creatures and cozied up to one another with the music of Victoria-based Mindil Beach Markets. I bumped into the always charming Stephane Castera, director of Food & Beverage at the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver, as we went on a hunt for the best beer and stumbled onto some fine Sandhill Sauvignon Blanc white wine to our delight.

At the end of the night, the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown People’s Choice Award was given to chef Natasha Harris of Sunset Bay Yacht Group for her chowder featuring Ocean Wise scallops, clams and mussels, as well as sherry, organic celery and Yukon gold baby potatoes. This was my favorite of the night, and I also heard hearty murmurs of agreement around me as well. I especially enjoyed the fun and whimsical pairing of spicy Dungeness crab chowder with cotton candy wrapped spot prawn presented by the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts. Another favorite was Hapa Izakaya’s complex and layered dashi-flavored chowder. The third award of the night for best chowder and beer pairing went to YEW restaurant + bar executive chef Ned Bell.

This year’s panel of distinguished judges included Ocean Wise founding partners chef Robert Clark and Albion Fisheries’ Guy Dean, along with Canada’s first certified cicerone (beer sommelier) Chester Carey, food editor Jamie Maw and Sid Cross from The Chef's Table Society of B.C.

Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program, a nationwide sustainable seafood initiative, works closely with restaurants, markets and suppliers to help them sell seafood that has been harvested in a sustainable manner and is the trust symbol of sustainable seafood choices. The continued success of Ocean Wise month and the Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown help raise awareness for sustainable seafood and conservation initiatives across the country.

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