Twelve top chefs from the Greater Toronto Area battled with ladles, soup pots, and culinary acumen last evening for the winning title at the 2012 Vancouver Aquarium Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown in Toronto. In the end, Chef Albert Ponzo of Le Select Bistro was crowned the 2012 Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown Champion, while Chef Richard Baksh of Earls Kitchen and Bar on King Street was distinguished by event guests as winner of the People’s Choice award.

Chef Ponzo won over the celebrity judges’ panel with his irresistible recipe for his seasonal chowder, Chef Ponzo’s Seafood Chowder, featuring fresh fall ingredients that are at their peak this season.

Meanwhile, Chef Baksh wooed the crowds with his mouth-watering Manilla Clam and Seafood Chowder, which not only included clams but sturgeon and other ingredients that made for a warm, comforting concoction.

“The decision certainly wasn’t an easy one for the judges, but they agreed that Chef Ponzo’s sustainable seafood chowder presented a truly unstoppable mix of flavours and ingredients, resulting in a winning recipe,” said Robin Poirier, Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise Toronto representative. “But event guests found their palates voting for Chef Baksh’s creation, which showcased an innovative blend of clams, seafood, and hearty seasonings. Congratulations are well deserved by both winners!”

This year’s third annual Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown in Toronto boasted 12 top chefs who joined the battle for sustainable seafood by engaging in this friendly competition with their original, ocean-friendly seafood chowders, paired with beers that highlighted each chowder’s flavour profile. The diverse ingredients of the chowders ran the spectrum, from double-smoked bacon to shimeji mushrooms. Bios for each competing chef can be found here.

“Each participating chef battled for our overarching goal: saving our oceans by encouraging event guests and the community to choose sustainable Ocean Wise options every time they look for seafood,” added Poirier. “They demonstrated that sustainable seafood is not only good for our oceans, but great tasting as well. We honour their commitment to fight the biggest threat to our oceans – overfishing.”

This year’s panel of distinguished judges, who crowned this year’s champion, included:

·         Anthony Walsh, Corporate Executive Chef and Partner, Oliver and Bonacini Restaurants

·         Carl Heinrich, Partner/Executive Chef, Richmond Station & Top Chef Canada Season 2 Winner

·         Rebecca LeHeup, Executive Director, Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance

·         Jamie Kennedy, Owner/Executive Chef, Jamie Kennedy Kitchens

·         Micah Donovan, The Food Jammers

During Ocean Wise month in November, consumers are invited to join the fight for sustainable seafood by pledging to eat ocean-friendly seafood to keep our oceans healthy. Look for the Ocean Wise symbol next to a seafood item for the Vancouver Aquarium’s assurance of an ocean-friendly seafood choice.

This year’s Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown is made possible with the support of our presenting sponsors Rickard’s, Granville Island Brewery, Creemore Springs Brewery Limited, and seafood provider Allseas Fisheries Corp.

Vancouver Aquarium Ocean Wise™

The Ocean Wise symbol next to a seafood item is the Vancouver Aquarium’s assurance of an ocean-friendly seafood choice. With over 3,100 Ocean Wise partner locations across Canada, Ocean Wise makes it easy for consumers to make sustainable seafood choices that ensure the health of our oceans for generations to come.