The Westwood Area Chamber of Commerce will hold the 11th Annual Chowder Cook-off Saturday, Jan. 18, on the grounds of the Lassen County Visitor Center-Westwood Station. Forms for team entries can be picked up at the Old Mill Café or Buffalo Chips Pizza in downtown Westwood or call the Westwood Chamber at 256-2456. The chamber will accept entries until the day before the event. It is OK to leave an entry message on the chamber phone.
Teams supply their own equipment, such as a table, stove, and cooking utensils, as well as ingredients for four to six gallons of chowder. People who attend the event receive a soft, round bread loaf in their tasting kit to fill with their favorite chowder. All cooking is done at the visitor center but ingredients can be chopped beforehand and transported to the site and canned broth or sauce is permissible. Teams can begin the preparation of their chowder at 8 a.m. with soup ready for judging by noon. The entry fee is $25 but there is no fee for nonprofit organizations.
Contestants not only try to please the judges but also people who are tasting chowder at the event, for everyone who purchases a tasting kit for $5 receives a “People’s Choice” ticket to cast for their favorite chowder. Therefore, teams often serve appetizers or light desserts to garner votes. In the past, teams have prepared fried oysters, fried peaches, fried pickles and chocolate covered bacon. More traditional appetizers have included mini-muffins. Awards are also given for the best decorated booth.
The Westwood Chamber will award $600 in cash prizes. Trophies are awarded in all categories. Winners are announced at 3:30 p.m.
In 2019, the Birch St. Bay Chowder team of Shay Quam, Ashley Ragan and Trena Smith took first place Judge’s Choice; Plumas Pines Resort team Tasha McCormick, Todd Geer and Cory Hedrick took second place; and the Lassen County CattleWomen team of Claudia Johnson, Della Smith and Ruth Dike took third place. In the People’s Choice category the first place winner was The Chimney Fund team of John Fish, Del Arredondo and Michelle Miller; second place was the Legal Eagles team of Lassen County Superior Court Judge Tony Mallery, Justin Cadili and Gary Bridges; and third place went to the Calvary Chapel Women’s Ministry team of Debbie Wilson, Marleen Langrehr, Sheryl Hart-Langrehr, Gloria McClure and Kim Flores.
Each year there is a mix of teams that have entered in the past and newcomers. All come with their best chowder recipe. The Westwood Chamber will begin selling tasting kits at noon but advises the public to come early because there is a limited number of kits.