Attendance for P.E.I. International Shellfish Festival up 13 per cent

Mitch MacDonald comment@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on September 19, 2016

Chef Andrew MacLeod, of Bolete in St. Catharine’s, Ont., removes a cooked lobster from the pot during the final round of the Garland Chef Challenge at the P.E.I. International Shellfish Festival on Sunday. MacLeod won the event, which included $10,000 in prize money.

©TC MEDIA/Mitch MacDonald

Chef Andrew MacLeod, of Bolete in St. Catharine’s, Ont., wins final round of the Garland Chef Challenge

A record-breaking 120 foot long lobster roll, professional chefs battling for thousands of dollars and the best shellfish in the world were just some of the treats enjoyed by Islanders and visitors alike this weekend.

Attendance was also up by about 13.5 per cent over last year as thousands packed the Charlottetown Event Grounds for the 21st annual P.E.I. International Shellfish Festival.

Ed Waldroop, of eastern Tennessee, couldn’t describe the festival in just one word.

“You would need two words, ‘just incredible’,” Waldroop said during the final day.

The festival was one of many stops for Waldroop in a six-week road trip.

“But this (festival) is the focus,” said the shellfish lover. “This is the hotspot.”

Sunday saw the final honours handed out for this year’s competitions, while audience members were treated to the giant lobster roll.

The P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association said members broke a world record with the creation, which was made with 120 pounds of P.E.I. lobster meat, 30 pounds of dough and celery, 15 pounds of red pepper and five gallons of mayonnaise.

A team of about 60 fishermen and their wives paraded the roll from the Culinary Institute to the event grounds while being escorted by city police.

The massive roll wasn’t the only excitement for the weekend, which also saw Chef Andrew MacLeod, of Bolete in St. Catharine’s, Ont., win the final round of the Garland Chef Challenge against Chef Mark Andrews, of Bartlett Mitchell in London, England.

Both chefs were tasked with creating a dish showcasing P.E.I. shellfish in 45 minutes.

Even before winning the challenge, which came with $10,000 in prize money, MacLeod also described this year’s festival as “absolutely incredible.”

For the dozen competing chefs in the challenge, one of the weekend’s highlights was camaraderie.

“It’s amazing, all these people are going to have lifelong friendships. It’s interesting because you don’t know what their style is coming into the event,” said MacLeod. “Then you really start developing a knowledge of how these people cook and their talent levels, which is great.”

Andrews, who took home $2,500 as runner-up, expressed a similar sentiment when he described the festival as one of the best experiences of his life.

“The shellfish has been amazing and the chefs behind me have been an incredible support,” said Andrews. “It’s quite amazing how quickly everyone forms bonds over a few days.”

Andrews said he will likely be writing an article about the experience once he returns home.

“The title is going to be ‘from competitors to companions,’” he said.

The chef challenge wasn’t the only honour handed out over the weekend.

More than $26,000 in prize money was given away in competitions for oyster growing and shucking, creating the best chowder, tying on mussel socks and more.

Liam Dolan, chair and founder of the festival, said he was ecstatic to see crowds pack the festival tent night after night.

“It went absolutely fantastic, I can’t say enough about it,” said Dolan. “There were huge crowds this afternoon, we beat the world record for longest lobster roll, which is fantastic for the P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association. I’m absolutely ecstatic.”

Dolan also thanked the many individuals involved with the festival, from the numerous associations involved, to the chefs and volunteers.

“Everybody, when you pick up a phone and call, there’s nobody that says no. People are always there for this and it’s a really nice feeling.”

Mitch.macdonald@tc.tc

Twitter.com/Mitch_PEI