Select A Category
Travel BLOG
February 20, 2013

Spoons Ready: 2012 Clam Chowder Cook-Off & Festival Set to Begin!


Each year, hundreds of fans flock to Santa Cruz to sample clam chowder for a good cause.  The Clam Chowder Cook-Off and Festival - one of the most popular events in town -  is also an important fund-raiser for the City of Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation Department.   And the judges who serve at the Clam Chowder Cook-Off and Festival each year at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk are a tough lot – especially those assigned to taste the Boston Clam Chowder division with its creamy, buttery base.  They tuck in their napkins, square their shoulders to the task and taste as many as 12 different versions of this classic American dish.  Once those scores are tabulated, a taste off can occur among finalist chowders, which means even more spoonfuls to sample before a winner is selected.  As many as twenty-five different judges are needed to sample their way through the corporate, private and professional entries that make up both Boston and Manhattan Clam Chowder divisions. Before the judges are cloistered in their tasting chambers, they spend an hour touring the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk - home to the Clam Chowder Cook-Off and Festival for the past three decades - where clam chowder teams have assembled, to determine the winner of the “Most Original Team” award for the best booth, costumes and overall ambiance.  Then they hunker down with their spoons and the hard work begins.

There are several tasting strategies the general public adopts at the Clam Chowder Cook-Off and Festival since you can’t possibly taste them all -- there are close to a hundred different entries.  One popular strategy is to sample the wares from past winners, which means the wait can be rather long.   The other is to randomly select where to taste, which is what Salinas residents Jamie, Rachel, Cassie and David like to do.

“We usually taste the Boston-style chowder,” said Rachel, who’s attended the festival for the past three years, “but we’re really liking this Manhattan version.  I like to taste the ones the kids make,” she added as the four of them feasted on chowder from Cabrillo College’s Culinary Cooking Team booth.


Click here to listen to the Clam Chowder Cook-Off Festival song!

Their instincts turned out to be right on the money, as Cabrillo’s teams won first place for Boston Clam Chowder and second place for Manhattan style in the restaurant divisions at the 2011 festival.

Mark your calendars for the 2012 Clam Chowder Cook-Off & Festival, taking place on Saturday, February 25, 2012 at the legendary Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk - and don't forget your spoon!





You need to login to comment.
  • Pat Brownlee 3 years 58 days ago
    I had saved a recipe for clam chowder from 31st Santa Cruz Clam Chowder Cook-off but for some reason cannot get the recipe to pull up. Recipe was the winner by a woman named I-Chin Chou from Tiawan. Any possible way to get the recipe? Thank you, Pat Brownlee

  • Papapolloni Mediterranean bistro 4 years 309 days ago
    Papa Pollonis clam chowder has been sampled by many, many connoisseurs of chowder from New England to Fishermans Wharf. No one has admitted to tasting any better!

  • John Fuster 6 years 187 days ago
    How can I get the recipe for the 2012 winning clam chowder? I belive it was the Island Chowder.

  • John Fuster 6 years 187 days ago
    How can I get the recipe for the winning 2012 clam chowder? I belive it was named Island Chowder. Thank You.