Chili Chowder Cookoff Cape May

On one of the coldest Valentine’s Days in recent memory, more than 500 people filled the Penthouse Ballroom of the Grand Hotel in Cape May, for the annual Chili & Chowder Cook-Off.

A dozen participants, prepared fifteen different varieties of chili and chowder, all available for tasting by the attendees who paid a $5.00 admission charge.  The benefit event, organized by the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cape May is in its sixth year and supports food banks in the Cape May area.

“The event surpassed previous years attendance, and we had an overwhelming turnout,” said event organizer, Doreen Talley of the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cape May, “we doubled last years attendance.”


With each paid admission, attendees or tasters become judges and have a chance to sample all of the offerings by the participants. Each taster is then asked to vote for their favorite chili or chowder by dropping a ticket into participants numbered bag. Votes are tallied at the end of the event.

Ryan Ondrejca, of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania liked the chili offered by the Genesis Healthcare Network’s, Chris Rue. “I enjoyed the event overall, and found the Genesis Healthcare chili to be the best flavored of all I sampled,” Ryan said.

Grand Hotel executive chef Jon Davies prepared 12 gallons of his fresh shucked clam chowder and topped each portion with a corn and lobster fritter.  The Grand Hotel’s staffers Christina Mantz and Christina Congleton also dished up the 10 gallons of prime rib and black bean chili prepared by Davies and topped portions with a polenta crouton.


Jonathon and Jessica Podlaski of Swoyersville Pennsylvania, cast their votes for the Grand’s clam chowder and chili from the Blue Rose Inn and Restaurant. “I really liked the extra topping on the clam chowder of the Grand.” Jessica Podlaski said, “It really made a nice difference,” she went on to say.


In  addition to sampling and judging the various chili and chowder at the vent, vendors such as Scarf-It-Up, displayed hand knitted, scarves, shawls and blankets.

At 3:00 P.M. judges gathered the cast votes and tallied the winners. First place clam chowder was awarded to Jon Davies of the Grand Hotel. Second place was newcomer Exit Zero Cook House, and Empanada Mama of West Cape May was third.

First place chili was awarded to Chris Rue of the Genesis Healthcare Network. Gaiss’ Market owner Kathy Louderback placed second with her ten gallons of chorizo chili. In third place for chili was Icona Hotel’s Coastal Blue Restaurant.

The overall vote winner for the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cape May Chili Chowder Cook Off was Harry’s Restaurant at the Montreal Inn and Beach Resort.





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  1. February 22, 2016 / 11:42 am

    Harry’s has the best clam chowder I’ve ever had, though there are many close contenders in Cape May, like Hemingway’s, Lobster House, and Tisha’s.

  2. Raymond Johnson Jr
    February 18, 2020 / 7:34 am

    Best chili was is whitesboro nj bbq place off of rt 9