The savoury scents drifting from the Garibaldi secondary cafeteria on Thursday afternoon spoke of the quality of competition in the eighth annual Chowder Festival.
Sixteen teams from the school district’s teaching kitchens came to strut their culinary stuff. Along with the hosts were teams from Thomas Haney, Samuel Robertson Technical and Maple Ridge Secondary School.
There was clam chowder, sparerib chowder, citrus-cured salmon chowder, Cajun chowder, smoked chicken and bacon chowder, and many other varieties of thick, chunky, creamy stew.
A sample-sized cup of the delightful liquids could be purchased for just a quarter, and the kids stood behind huge pots of their creations, ladling it out, and serving it with a sprinkle of fresh sage, a parsley sprig or a slice of baguette.
“They’re amazing. The kids have done a great job,” said judge and home economics teacher Theresa Knox.
She said it was amazing what they were able to do in the 90-minute time limit.
“It was way better than Hell’s Kitchen, and they don’t get swore at.”
Some of the kids are simply taking an elective course, and others are future chefs.
“They get a chance to show off,” said Knox.
Thomas Haney’s Jon Donofrio had prepared a nice halibut and prawn chowder with partner Alex Hoskins. They were proud, but also impressed with their rivals’ chowders.
“They’re all really good, but they’re all different,” noted Donofrio.
The winners, as chosen by the judges, were James Federici and Travis Smith of Garibaldi for their Mexican chowder.
The people’s choice winners were Shiobhon Burlando and Brady Nugent of Garibaldi with their Cajun chicken chowder. The judges had them tied for second with Matthew Dressler and Elena Oberlaender of Maple Ridge secondary, with an Irish chowder.
Organizer and Garibaldi chef Daniel Lesnes said it was a close competition, as the lowest mark by judges was 107, and the highest was 134.
Stewart Sonne direction of instruction and judge, talks with two competitors during the chowder competition at Garibaldi secondary on Thursday.