Chow time at Dana Point Chowder Cook-off

A rep from the Shwack Grill redeems his People's Choice Award for the second year in a row. (Photo by Niko LaBarbera)

A rep from the Shwack Grill redeems his People’s Choice Award for the second year in a row. (Photo by Niko LaBarbera)

Dana Point has been busy with foot traffic the last two weeks as both locals and tourists gathered near the harbor to enjoy the 44th annual Festival of the Whales.

The first two weekends of March are dedicated to the festival which showcases a number of ocean related activities and attractions.

One of the many popular events that drew in dozens of spectators was the Whale of a Clam Chowder cook off at Baby Beach Park.

This was the 4th annual Chowder Cook-off and consisted of 12 different competitor booths ranging from individual cooks to local restaurants. The local police department even had a stand to see how their clam chowder competed.

While the chowder remained to be the most embraced aspect of the event by competitors and tasters alike, each team focused their attention on both the design of their booth as well as the taste of their dishes.

This was because there was a total of 3 awards given; a best designed booth award, peoples choice award and Mayor’s choice award which was presented by the Mayor of Dana Point, Carlos Olvera.

Tasting began at 10 a.m. on Saturday as patrons began filing into Baby Beach park to find their favorite booths.

For only 10 dollars a tasting packet could be purchased which included a sampling cup, spoon and unlimited samples from all the booths.

All benefits made from the cook off were given to Fish for Life, a non profit organization that aims to improve the lives of special needs children through fishing and other ocean activities.

The first award to be given was by Mayor Olvera who explained to the crowd his favorite type of chowder.

“I’m a New England clam chowder kind of a guy,” Olvera said as he delivered the award to RJ’s Cafe who’s chowder was rich in taste and full of diced potatoes and bacon.

Canons Sea food Grill took home the Best Booth award thanks to their hawaiian style themed booth and dressed up chefs.

The people choice award was presented by last years winners The Shwack Beach grill who seemed reluctant to give up the award.

“I just wanna keep it,” said The Shwack’s chef.

Lucky for him the Shwack took home the peoples choice award for the second year in a row and is able to claim the trophy until next year.