People gather on the ground of the Lassen County Visitor Center-Westwood Station for the 10th Annual Westwood Chamber Chowder Cook-off Saturday, Jan. 19. Photos by Susan Cort Johnson

Annual Chowder Cook-Off attracts many

The Judge’s Choice for first place at the 10th Annual Westwood Chamber Chowder Cook-off, Birch St. Bay Chowder, was a well-tested recipe. Team members Shay Quam, Ashley Ragan and Trena Smith said Quam had prepared the chowder several times, making ingredient adjustments until she achieved the taste she desired. The trio had wanted to use their cooking skills in the competition for a while, and this year they entered. They took home a trophy and a check for $75.

The three friends, who have addresses on or near Birch Street, joined six other teams Saturday, Jan. 19, at the cook-off. Every team won a trophy, a first for the event, according to Lana Beal, vice president of the board of directors for the Westwood Chamber.

Second place Judge’s Choice went to Plumas Pines Resort with the cooking team consisting of the resort’s chef, Tasha McCormick, along with Todd Geer and Cory Hedrick. This was their first chowder cook-off as well.

Michelle Miller, John Fish and his son Zane, hold the trophy and a check for $100 they received as the winners of first place People’s Choice.

Lassen County Cattle Women, in their second competition, received the third place Judge’s Choice trophy. Claudia Johnson, Della Smith and Ruth Dike prepared “Beefy Cheeseburger Chowder” because they are cattle women and they represent the beef industry.

“We enter because it’s fun, a great beef promotion opportunity and Westwood is a part of Lassen County. It’s a big county,” said Johnson.

People attending the event can purchase a tasting kit that includes a soft bread bowl they fill with their favorite chowder along with their vote for the “People’s Choice” awards. The Westwood Chamber distributed all 457 bread bowls donated by Emily and Robert Rice of Chester and sold another 99 kits with disposable bowls. Many people commented that all the chowder was excellent this year and they had difficulty deciding where to cast their vote.

When the votes were counted, The Chimney Fund received the most taking first place with John Fish, Del Arredondo and Michelle Miller preparing the recipe. They followed the recipe that pleased the judges in 2018, but rather than limiting the ingredients to clams they used a variety of seafood.

A team from The Chimney Fund enters every year. In addition to a trophy, the team received a check for $100. The organization gave the money back to the chamber.

Second-place People’s Choice went to the Legal Eagles with cooks Lassen County Superior Court Judge Tony Mallery, Justin Cadili, owner of Lumberjacks Restaurant, and Gary Bridges. Mallery, who has entered the competition since 2012, said he keeps his recipe fairly consistent year after year.

A team from Calvary Chapel Women’s Ministry received the third place People’s Choice award in their second year of competition. Women’s Ministry Leader Debbie Wilson organized the team with cooks Marleen Langrehr, Sheryl Hart-Langrehr, Gloria McClure and Kim Flores. According to Langrehr, their reason for participating is to bless the community.

Trena Smith, Shay Quam and Ashley Ragan hold their trophy and a check for $75 as first place Judge’s Choice for their Birch St. Bay Chowder.

Although chowder was the main attraction there were also vendors.

The Westwood High Varsity Boys Basketball team ran the bounce house for children and sold hotdogs.

People gathered at picnic tables, lined up between the chowder booths, or next to a warming fire to eat their favorite chowder. Most chowder was served with appetizers such as sliced wraps, smoked bacon wrapped chicken and smoked salmon baguettes.

Passive and Company, with musicians Keely Nesbit, Chris Retallack and Graham Shea, entertained the crowd. The band is from Quincy.

Most teams said they enter the chowder cook-off because it is fun, and that is probably the reason people attend as well.

The event is held on the grounds of the Lassen County Visitor Center-Westwood Station.