Chowder is almost a rite of passage on the East Coast, a time-honored food that incites passion and tradition in people. Nowhere is that more evident than at the Newport Chowder Festival held in Rhode Island. The pinnacle of chowder celebration takes place at the Newport Chowder Festival that's complete with cheerleaders chanting "Go Connecticut chowder!" and doing acrobatic moves, clam mascots, Chowdaheads, and tons of enthusiastic eaters and cooks. The cook-off is a competition that's been going strong for 30 years and doesn't seem to be going anywhere.
The true style of chowder is often debated: Some claim that it should be thick and creamy (New England-style), thin and briny, or tomato-based (Manhattan-style). What's not debated is that it's a chunky seafood soup that usually contains several types of seafood and vegetables — and is delicous. Clam chowder is the most famous of them all, but that doesn't mean there isn't room for new and exciting concoctions.
At the Chowder Fest, participants compete in three different categories, Traditional (clam), Seafood, and Creative, with a winner picked for each category. Below, we've asked some of the competitors and winners what they think is the key to the perfect clam chowder.