SANTA CRUZ – Santa Cruzans will be as happy as a clam to see that tradition lives on through the pandemic, as the annual Clam Chowder Cook-Off will continue for its 40th year.
This year’s Chowder Cook-Off will be a little different, as all things have been in a COVID-19 world. The 40th rendition of the event will be take-out-style for patrons to enjoy at home in an effort to continue to flatten the curve.
“For its 40th year, the country’s largest and longest-running clam chowder competition has been reimagined with the community’s health and safety in mind,” read the announcement from Santa Cruz’s Parks and Recreation department.
The Parks and Recreation department is also looking to use the event to bolster the local economy. The event has been rebranded as a restaurant week this year in order to help local restaurants during tough economic times.
The cook-off will only feature Boston Clam Chowder, this year. The amateur and individual categories will not be included in the competition. There will still be the People’s Choice category for local chowder enthusiasts.
Patrons can purchase a Clam Chowder Cook-Off Reimagined- Restaurant Week Passport for $10. The passport will include a list of all restaurants participating in the cook-off. It will also include a link to the People Choice ballot and one ticket to the cook-off raffle.
Passports go on sale on Feb. 1, and Restaurant Week is from Feb. 15-21. A passport is not required in order to purchase chowder from any of the participating restaurants.
Chowder fans can also purchase a tasting flight from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for $12. In the interest of social distancing, patrons will pick up their chowder flights via drive-thru. The flight will include six two-ounce taster cups of chowder from pre-selected Santa Cruz restaurants.
The flights will be available on Feb. 20 and will include voting information, as well. However, clam chowder flights must be purchased before Feb. 20. The Boardwalk plans to make flights purchasable on Feb. 1, after all the restaurants are registered, according to Karley Pope, director of sales and promotions at the Boardwalk.
Once flights are available, they can be reserved at beachboardwalk.com/clam-chowder-cook-off.
Restaurants have until Jan. 31 to register for the 40th Annual Clam Chowder Cook-off. A list of the participating restaurants will be added to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk website in mid-February. Restaurants can register for $100 at cityofsantacruz.com/chowder.
Chowder fans will also be able to purchase commemorative T-shirts, at the River parking lot on 3rd street on the same day.
A portion of the proceeds from the events will go to the city’s Parks and Recreation department. Funds from Chowder Cook-Offs in the past have gone to Parks and Recreation programs such as the junior guards lifeguard program, various summer camps and the translation of activity guides into Spanish.
The 2020 Clam Chowder Cook-Off raised $81,000 for the Parks and Recreation department, according to the Beach Boardwalk website. However, past events have raised even more. In 1981, the Clam Chowder Cook-Off raised more than $1.6 million.
“This event is an important fundraiser for the City of Santa Cruz Parks & Recreation Department,” said Recreation Supervisor Summer Lange in a statement. “This year, funds raised will help us continue to provide affordable access to these and other opportunities for safe activity and recreation.”