Prince Edward Island is way the hell and gone in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, on the far eastern seabord of Canada. It's over 3,500 miles from Seattle, so remote that you almost can't get there from here. But intrepid Seattle chef John Howie (Seastar, Sport, John Howie Steak) set off last week for the Canadian Maritime Provinces, traveling to PEI's capital city of Charlottetown for their annual International Shellfish Festival.
Howie, who'd never been to the Maritimes, was one of 14 chefs from North America invited to compete in two contests, the first being the International Chef Challenge. It's described as a black-box competition ("Think Iron Chef meets Chopped," is how one observer described it.) It started with eight or nine chefs on Friday. By Sunday, two were left standing: Howie and Marc Lepine, owner and chef at the ritzy Atelier in Ottawa.
Earlier this year, Lepine had won Best Canadian Chef honors at a national competition in Kelowna, BC. And he would win again in C'town, beating Howie by less than a tenth of a point and collecting a $10,000 prize.
Disappointed but not out, Howie turned his attention to the International Seafood Chowder competition. This time, using only ingredients he'd been given by the organizers and essentially following their recipe, Howie was named the winner and recipient of the $2,000 first prize.
Says Seattle oyster guru Jon Rowley, "It's a really big deal to win a chowder competition in Prince Edward Island."
Photo of Chef Howie at the International Chef Challenge courtesy of the Shellfish Festival's organizing committee.