By staff reporter
Proving the truth of the old saying “West is Best”, All-Ireland’s Chowder Champion, The West Bar of Westport, won the Seafood Category at this year’s 33rd Polar Seltzer Great Chowder Cook-Off in Newport Rhode Island on Saturday, June 7.
Frank Walsh, co-owner of the West Bar, Westport, and chef Rory McHugh and his wife, accompanied by Martin Shanahan, Irish TV personality and owner of the award-winning Fishy Fishy Café in Kinsale, County Cork, travelled to Newport Rhode Island, Chowder Capital of the USA to take part in the island’s annual Great Chowder Cook-Off.
Kinsale is twinned with Newport, Rhode Island, and close connections have been built up over the years. Martin Shanahan attended the event on behalf of Kinsale’s Good Food Circle, an organization that produces culinary events and promotions including the Kinsale Gourmet Festival each autumn, and the All-Ireland Chowder Cook-Off, modelled on the Rhode Island event, each April.
This was The West Bar’s second visit to Newport Rhode Island, where they represented Ireland after being crowned All-Ireland Chowder Champion at the All-Ireland Chowder Cook-Off at Acton’s Hotel Kinsale in April, 2013. Over 900 people attended the Kinsale event, and sampled chowders from 32 entrants, one from each county of Ireland.
In Newport last weekend, hundreds of competitors from across the USA vied for the top places in three categories: Clam Chowder, Seafood Chowder and Creative Chowder at the world’s original and longest-running chowder championships.
Huge crowds sampled some 4000 gallons of delicious chowder from dozens of restaurants at an informal, farmers’ market-style event in a relaxed, festive atmosphere.
The West Bar, which serves a range of seasonal dishes based on the best of locally sourced produce, was partnered in Newport by Chef T.R. McGrath of McGrath Clambakes, and named their entry “Clew Bay Chowder”, after the harbour on which Westport is located.
The win in the seafood category was a huge triumph for a busy gastro-pub from the west of Ireland. Westport is a highlight of the County Mayo section of the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s highly successful new driving route, which has its southern starting point in Kinsale.
Frank Walsh, co-owner, was delighted to be a winner at such a prestigious American festival. He thanked chef Rory McHugh, and praised him for his wining way with fresh local seafood: “The trick is to keep the recipe simple, and use only the freshest and best quality fish to achieve the best flavour.”
Liam Edwards, Chairman of the Good Food Circle, congratulated Frank Walsh and Rory McHugh on their victory, saying: “The West Bar was chosen as a winner by the people who attended the Chowder Cook-Off in Kinsale, and their victory in Newport Rhode Island is a tribute to the high standard of the chowders presented at the Kinsale event. On behalf of the Good Food Circle, thanks to everyone who competed there, and to the public who turned up to support them.”