Whether or not you know the difference between Boston and Manhattan clam chowder*, you’re sure to sample one of the best chowders of your life at the 33rd annual Santa Cruz Clam Chowder Cook-Off and Festival.
Registration for competitors is closed, but you can still attend the festivities and sample competing clam chowders to your heart’s content.
The cook-off takes place at the historic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk on Saturday, February 22nd, and admission is free. You’ll be able to purchase Tasting Kits at the Boardwalk starting at 10 am the day of the event. Tasting Kits include a bowl, spoon, 5 taste tickets (each good for a 2-ounce sample of the chowder of your choice), and a ballot allowing you to cast a vote in the People’s Choice category.
Competitors from all over California have been going head to head in the Santa Cruz Clam Chowder Festival every year since 1982. This event is a big fundraiser for the city’s Parks and Recreations department; more than $60,000 was raised last year, with over 70 teams competing.
There are awards and cash prizes for Best Boston and Best Manhattan Clam Chowders, in both the Individual (amateur) and Professional categories. Judges use a points-based system to evaluate for flavor, color and consistency.
As well as prizes awarded by the official judging panel, there are People’s Choice awards in all four categories. There’s also a prize for Most Tasted Overall.
In keeping with Santa Cruz’s love of wackiness, contestants are encouraged to cook in costume and decorate their booths to compete for the Most Original Team prize.
65+ teams will have booths set up along the boardwalk. Chefs start cooking and Tasting Kits go on sale at 10 am, public tasting begins at 1 pm, and the awards ceremony will take place at 4 pm.
Last year’s event attracted around 10,000 attendees, so arriving by foot, bike or bus can help you avoid parking headaches. Glass containers aren’t allowed on the Boardwalk for everyone’s safety.
*According to the official event rules, “Boston Clam Chowder is defined as a white, rich cream soup with a predominant clam flavor. Manhattan Clam Chowder is defined as a clam-flavored soup exhibiting a definite red hue.”
33rd Annual Santa Cruz Clam Chowder Cook-Off & Festival
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Saturday, February 22
10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Chowder samples: 5 for $9
Photo Credits: Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk