Special to the Beacon
Tony’s Seafood Restaurant, took its third consecutive championship at the 30th annual Great Chowder Cook-Off, Saturday in Newport, R.I. The competition is considered to be the ultimate international chowder contest, and is often referred to as the “Super Bowl” of cook-offs. Event organizers said attendance was the highest they’ve seen in years, as more than 10,000 people turned out to judge the best of the best.
Second place went to a Great Chowder Cook-Off newcomer this year, Stefano’s of Long Beach Island , N.J. – a 12-time chowder Grand Champion in the LBI Chowderfest for white and red chowders. Third place went to Newport local eatery, Ocean Breeze Café. However, neither could top Tony’s Cedar Key Clam Chowder.
This year’s championship title automatically inducts Tony’s into the Great Chowder Hall of Fame, retiring the recipe from the contest. Tony’s is only the second clam chowder in the history of the cook-off to enter the Hall of Fame with three consecutive wins.
Chef, owner and Chamber of Commerce President Eric Jungklaus said he is honored that New Englanders love Tony’s Chowder. “This is a great win for Tony’s, Cedar Key and the state of Florida,” he said. “I don’t think there is any doubt that our chowder is the very best in the world.”
Three years ago, Tony’s was the underdog. Few expected this little 54-seat restaurant from a small island in Florida to take on the big guys of New England with much success. Now, Tony’s Cedar Key Clam Chowder has proved its worthiness – three times.
This year the Tony’s crew went all out for their final trip to Newport, handing out almost 4,000 heart shaped beaded neck-laces, 3,000 stickers, 500 balloons, 200 visors, and 50 T-shirts. Adding some extra mid-afternoon fun, a plane flew overhead carrying a banner saying, “Peace, Love & Tony’s Chowder.”
Tina Ryan, Chamber Secretary/Treasurer said she is pleased with the effect Tony’s Clam Chowder is having on Cedar Key. “The first win in 2009 was surprising, the second year was thrilling, but this third win firmly puts Cedar Key and Tony's Restaurant on the map,” Ryan said. “Our little historic town of Cedar Key may only be a tiny dot on Florida's Gulf Coast, but this third straight World Championship is definitely going to make us stand out brighter. Eric is a major supporter of Cedar Key throughout the year and his famous chowder brings visitors from all over the country. This is a victory for all of Cedar Key.”