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Tony's Cedar Key Clam Chowder won first place in the 28th Annual Schweppes Great Chowder Cook-off held in Newport, RI on Saturday.
The international competition, featuring chefs from New England, Seattle, North Carolina, and Bermuda this year, awarded Tony's Cedar Key Clam Chowder with the title of “Clam Chowder World Champion.”
“This is Cedar Key’s clam chowder,” said Eric Jungklaus, chef and owner of Tony’s Seafood Restaurant, who named the restaurant after his brother who helped him get established on the island in 2005. “It’s not Tony’s clam chowder – it’s Tony’s Cedar Key Clam Chowder. It says it all right there in the name.” Jungklaus prides himself for serving only the finest, freshest, local ingredients in his chowder.
A veteran participant in festivals and events, this was Jungklaus’ first competition. “I couldn’t believe the number of people there,” he said. Festival-goers paid $20 each to taste the fare offered and then judge the competition. “I heard one estimate of 10,000 people, and another of 20,000 people, so I’m not sure exactly – but it was a lot.”
Current economic times did not keep the crowd away.
“We were unsure about what the season would bring and the effect of the economy,” said Michael Martin, Director of Newport Waterfront Events. “But it was a higher turnout than last year, which was an increase over previous years. It’s a tribute to the fact that people still want to come out and have some good affordable family fun.”
Jungklaus and restaurant manager Sam Torres were the only two that traveled from Tony’s Seafood Restaurant to Rhode Island for the competition. Cedar Key resident Nancy Langston was also able to attend, along with her family who lives in New England. “Nancy and her family were great,” Jungklaus said. “They were so much help.”
Tony’s Cedar Key Clam Chowder was made fresh the day of the cook-off.
“We made our chowder fresh right there in our booth – we didn’t make anything beforehand,” he said. “We went through about 125 gallons that day.”
Jungklaus was assigned four culinary arts high school students to assist him throughout the cook-off. He also took time before the competition to visit their school, Bristol Plymouth Tech, on Friday to talk to the culinary students and tour the facility.
The four students who assisted on Saturday were exceptional, he said. “The students were awesome,” he said. “The level of commitment they had was great.”
“I told them if we won, I’d donate the prize money to their school,” Jungklaus added. And that is just what he did, giving the $1,000 purse to the culinary students at Bristol Plymouth Tech.
“He’s a real class act,” Martin said. “Eric (Jungklaus) is a good ambassador for the people of Cedar Key and a great representation for the town and the area - not just by winning the chowder prize. His contribution was good and a real tribute to the type of person he is.”
Martin looks forward to Jungklaus competing again. “We’re hoping we can get him back here and defend his title next year,” Martin said.
For Jungklaus, the decision to return is simple.
“We’re definitely going back next year to defend our title,” he said enthusiastically.
To learn more about Tony’s Cedar Key Clam Chowder or Tony’s Seafood Restaurant visit their Web site at www.tonyschowder.com.
Lou Elliot Jones contributed to this article.