Japanese chef Yuji Kurokawa (right) whose chowder won contests in Japan, offers samples at Edmonds’ annual chowder cook-off Saturday. (Sharon Salyer / The Herald)

Japanese chef Yuji Kurokawa (right) whose chowder won contests in Japan, offers samples at Edmonds’ annual chowder cook-off Saturday. (Sharon Salyer / The Herald)

Chowder cook-off draws 11 competitors, including Japanese chef

Yuji Kurokawa, of Funabashi, Japan, won the People’s Choice Award in the Edmonds Clam Chowder Cook-off.

Many of us would walk a mile for a great bowl of clam chowder, but one chef at Edmonds’ annual Clam Chowder Cook-off traveled nearly 5,000 miles.

Chef Yuji Kurokawa of Funabashi, Japan, was invited to compete in Edmonds after winning chowder cook-offs in his home country.

Speaking through an interpreter, Kurokawa, 48, said he was honored to compete at the Edmonds cook-off Saturday at the Edmonds Yacht Club.

Kurokawa had the additional challenge of having to adapt his recipe to ingredients he could find locally. When making his chowder in Funabashi, he uses the clams the area is known for. Other ingredients weren’t so hard to find, including bacon, butter, whipping cream, whole milk, carrots, celery, onion and mushrooms.

He began his cooking career in a ramen restaurant and later opened his own business, Ramen 963. He now owns two other eateries, an Asian fusion restaurant, and a cafe on Shikine-jima, an island, about a three-hour ferry ride from Japan.

Cooking, he said, describes the chef’s personality, “so please enjoy my personality.”

Ten local restaurants and the one from Japan competed Feb. 22 for the title of “Best Chowder in Edmonds.” The Edmonds Chamber of Commerce hosts the annual cook-off featuring Traditional and Cutting Edge recipes. This was its fifth year.

Competing were Salish Sea Brewing Co., Pacific Northwest Catering, Kingston Ale House, Navi’s Catering Kitchen, Ivar’s, Calypso Edmonds, Bar Dojo, Salt & Iron, Emory’s on Silver Lake, MAR•KET Fishmonger and Eatery and Ramen 963 — Kurokawa’s restaurant.

Judges were instructed to rate each chowder from 0 to 100 points based on its seafood, texture and flavor. Taste-testers who bought admission to the event could vote for their favorites in the two categories.

“We’re pretty excited,” said C.J. Chapman, from Emory’s on Silver Lake, which was competing in the event for the first time. “Our clam chowder is one of our favorites.”

Chowder is a foundation in the reputation of Ivar’s restaurants. Nevertheless, Ray Espinoza, who works in research and development for the restaurants, said he didn’t see the event as a competition.

“It’s nice to try someone else’s food,” he said. “This chowder over here is really good,” he said, pointing to a nearby table where Calypso Edmonds had set out its chowder, which included conch.

Due to the novelty of having a competitor from Japan, there was a lot of interest in Kurokawa’s spin on chowder.

Lana Sovich, of Everett, said she is really picky about chowder, having sampled a number from area restaurants.

“Absolutely amazing flavor,” is how she described Kurokawa’s chowder. She liked that it was not too creamy, and was topped with a dollop of whipping cream.

Eric Sonett, of Edmonds, gave the Japanese chowder high marks, too, saying it had balanced flavors.

“Unique and flavorful,” Brian Bergstrom, of Edmonds, said of Kurokawa’s chowder. His wife, Kari Bergstrom, said she liked that it was seasoned with fresh ground black pepper.

Some called out “welcome to Edmonds” and “thank you for coming” as he handed them a sample cup of his chowder.

Kurokawa’s chowder took top honors in the People’s Choice, Cutting Edge category. But to sample it, you’ll have to book a flight to Japan.

That’s because he’s keeping his recipe a closely held secret.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com.

The winners

Here are the winners in the Edmonds Clam Chowder Cook-off’s two categories:

Judges Choice, Traditional

First place: Ivar’s

Second place: Emory’s on Silver Lake

Judges Choice, Cutting Edge

First: Calypso Edmonds

Second: Salish Sea Brewing Co.

People’s Choice, Traditional

First: Emory’s on Silver Lake

Second: Pacific Northwest Catering

People’s Choice, Cutting Edge

First: Ramen 963

Second: Salish Sea Brewing Co.

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