Home News Local News Claudio’s takes home first prize at crowd-filled Greenport chowder contest

Claudio’s takes home first prize at crowd-filled Greenport chowder contest

SoutholdLOCAL photo by Emil Breitenbach Jr.

A long-time favorite took home the first place trophy as Claudio’s chef Brian Kavanagh bested a series of talented contenders at the First Annual Greenport Chowder Fest on Sunday.

Crowds turned out to welcome back a long-time tradition, as the event, held to benefit the East End Seaport Museum and Marine Foundation, unfolded in the Chase Bank parking lot on Main Street in the village, with First and South taking second place and A Lure winning first place in the “other chowder” competition.

Trophies, designed with spoons, were created by artist Rena Wilhelm, owner of The White Weathered Barn on Front Street.

Kavanagh, who’s been stirring up the award-winning New England clam chowder that wowed the crowds for 24 years, said his key is consistency.

“No one wants the soup to change. When it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” Kavanagh said. “When I make it, nobody can bother me — leave me alone. And it’s the same every single time.”

While he won’t divulge the secret recipe, Kavanagh said ingredients include all hand-cut ingredients, fresh potatoes and local clams.

Winning the contest is a long-standing tradition: Back when the chowder contest was a part of the Maritime Festival, Kavanagh won nine years in a row. Then, he said, he took a break and chose not to participate. “We decided we’d let somebody else win,” he smiled.

When the chowder contest was not included as part of last year’s Maritime Festival, many were disappointed, and the East End Seaport Museum decided to break it out as its own event, to be held in June.

After winning, Kavanagh said the honor was especially significant given the caliber of the top-notch chefs competing.

“The crowd deserves a round of applause for being here and competing,” he said.

Before the winners were announced, chef Gennaro Flori of Six Three One in Southold said it was first time in the contest for the eatery, which opened last August. Their chowders, he said, feature three different types of clams. “It’s a good product,” he said.

Chef Brian Arbesfeld of the new CJ’s American Grill in Mattituck said he brings 30 years of experience to the proverbial table. Trained in classical French cuisine, Arbesfeld said his soup is not focused on flour or cream, like so many others. “Mine is about the true flavors coming through — the chicken, Andouille sausage, roasted corn, sweet potatoes — melded together.”

Only in business for five weeks, Arbesfeld added, “I’m glad we’re here.”

Participants enjoyed sampling the delicious tastes. Artist Roz Dimon said she’d already eaten at Noah’s  on Sunday but decided she couldn’t resist the contest. “It’s so festive and fun,” she said. “We have to indulge.” Dimon, who’d already tasted five chowders, said she believed she’d try them all. “They’re all so different. It’s like trying to decide your favorite painter. It’s hard to say because each has their own distinctive thing — apples and oranges.”

Dimon said she also enjoyed a free beer from Greenport Harbor Brewing Company.

After his win, Kavanagh reflected on the triumph. “I feel good right now. It’s a hometown thing. I enjoyed doing it — it was enjoyed a beautiful day and we had a nice turnout. We’re a local restaurant, and you have to participate in your hometown, it’s part of the tradition.”

This year’s chowder competition brought together previous winners and fierce competitors to showcase the best of the East End including Noah’s, First and South, Claudio’s, Frisky Oyster, Salt, Front Street Station, A Lure, aMano, Petulant Wino, Vino n Vittles, Rhumbline, Six Three One, The Blue Inn, and San Simeon by the Sound.{gallery}2014_0608_chowder_fest{/gallery}