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Second chowder cookoff scheduled

Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune

From left, Codee Herring of the Vineyard Restaurant, Francisco Martinez of Sugar Pine Smokehouse, Stacey Miller of Backstreet Bar & Grill, Kim Praytor of the Waffle Spot, Rob Hyatt aka “BBQ Rob” of Rob’s Bayside BBQ, and Jerry Rodriguez of Black Bear Diner try to reach for the Clam Chowder Cookoff trophy Miller won last year. The six restaurants will square off in a cook-off March 26 at The Waffle Spot parking lot.


Although there were some hiccups last year, the second Clam Chowder Cook-off is set for March 26 at The Waffle Spot parking lot at Country Club Village.

“This year, we actually pulled the permits like we were supposed to last year so we don’t get blindsided,” said Kim Praytor, owner of The Waffle Spot (1101 Country Club Dr). “It was just drawings and every department had to approve it. They wanted to make sure everything was safe and within fire codes. We got approved the day before we planned to do it. I hadn’t sold anything and done anything because we had to wait for the approval.”

Tickets can be purchased at all six participating restaurants and each restaurant will be competing to see who can sell the most tickets.

“The Waffle Spot, Backstreet Bar and Grill and Sugar Pine Smokehouse are the returning participants,” Praytor said. “The Vineyard, Rob’s Bayside Barbecue and Black Bear Diner are the new participants. It’s going to be exciting.”

Tickets are $10 for adults and kids are $5. The ticket lets the customer sample all six chowders and receive a ticket to vote for the best one.

Unlike last year when the restaurants were split in two different locations because of COVID-19 restrictions, Praytor has the correct paperwork to be able to host it at one location, like it was originally planned.

“Each restaurant will have a pop-up and a table,” she said. “We’re hoping each restaurant will have an owner or a general manager to interact with the customers. We want to be out there with the community.”

There were lessons Praytor and her group learned from last year and are doing what they can to alleviate those issues. One issue was getting the clam chowder to the ticket-holders. Another issue was getting the clam chowder out in a timely manner.

“My daughter’s youth group will be out there to be the runners so we’re not hectic as we were last year,” she said. “We will have more hands on deck this year. We definitely learned from our mistakes from last year. There will be lids on everything this year.”

Tickets will be sold for two time slots — 3-4 p.m. and 4-5 p.m.

“I have told all the restaurants to be there at 2,” Praytor said. “If they are not there by 2, they won’t participate in the first session. I want the samples set up on the table at 2:45. Last year, we had people come in at 2:50. Last year, all of our power was split between two restaurants. We weren’t as prepared as we should have been, but we also thought we were all going to be together. The force divided hurt us. This year, it should be good. We will have runners bussing cups out to everybody.”

Praytor has a maximum of 500 tickets. If there are 500 tickets sold, that means each restaurant will make about 15 gallons of chowder each.

“With part of the proceeds, it will be donated to the youth group, Pentacostal Tabernacle, that will help us,” she said. “They are raising money to go to a youth convention. There was a lot more cost because of the permits we had to do. Also the supplies are more expensive, now. It’s crazy how much more things cost from last year.”

Last year, Backstreet Bar and Grill owner Stacy Miller claimed the title, although she didn’t regularly sell clam chowder.

“Stacy was the dark horse and came out of nowhere,” Praytor said. “Before, she didn’t even sell clam chowder. Since then, she sells it on Fridays and sells out most days.”

What started as a contest for bragging rights has developed into a cookoff with, hopefully, more than 400 people attending.

“We started this to find out who’s is the best,” Praytor said. “Stacy will defend her title. She said she is going to bring it.”

Prizes will be given out to first, second and third place and to the restaurant that sold the most tickets.

“Rob’s will be the dark horse and he’s talking about smoked chowder. He hasn’t made chowder in years,” Praytor said.

“We just want to have fun. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose. People will see you and we will get our name out there. We want to interact with the community and do something family-oriented. It’s something to do and keep people in town.”


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