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It sounds like one of those jokes that unfortunately we Rhode Islanders tell on our state too often. Two guys are having lunch and over a bowl of clam chowder, one says, “Hey, did you hear, they held a contest to find the best chowder in Ireland and the winner got a trip to Rhode Island for a week!” The other says, “No kidding. What did the loser get?” “Two weeks!”
No kidding. They held a contest to see who makes the best clam chowder in Ireland and the prize really was not only a weeklong trip but a chance to compete in the Great Chowder Cook-Off in Newport.
Chef Paddy Collins, of Bunratty Manor Hotel in County Clare, won first place in the first-ever Irish Chowder Cook-off last year in Kinsale, Newport’s sister city and the acknowledged culinary capital of Ireland. One of his prizes was a trip to Newport to compete in the 2012 Great Chowder Cook-Off, which was held in early June.
This comes as a surprise only to those of us who don’t venture beyond the state’s borders. As has been written about over the years in this column, the Newport Chowder Cook-Off is highly regarded across the country and indeed around the world. Past winners from San Francisco, Florida and Bermuda proudly display their “Best Chowder” trophies from Newport at their restaurants.
Of course, success spawns imitation and it comes as no surprise that Kinsale would host an Irish national chowder competition. After all, chefs from Kinsale have been traveling to Newport and our local chefs have been journeying there to show off each other’s culinary highlights and engage in a bit of friendly competition for years.
Nearly 800 foodies from all over Ireland converged on Kinsale in late May for the National Chowder Cook-Off. Chefs, fishermen and commercial chowder producers were the participants and the public were the judges.
From the online account of the contest, it appears the chowders were all in the creamy category. The reporting of the festival read like an old newspaper story where the young heroes from the old sod received a rousing sendoff from their fellow villagers before boarding the steamship to America to seek their fortune.
“The 2011 National Chowder Champions, Bunratty Manor Hotel, returned to Kinsale for this year’s event, in preparation for their visit to the Newport, Rhode Island Great Chowder Cook-Off, where they will represent Ireland, following their win in Kinsale last year.”