Chef Ralph Smith of Mine Oyster and his team of culinary specialists won big June 15 at Claw Down 2023, a lobster cooking competition hosted by Boothbay Harbor Region Chamber of Commerce (BHRCC). Smith and team won first place in the Judge’s Choice Award and third place in the People’s Choice Award. “I’ve done this 10 times and I finally won,” cheered Smith.
The event features competing chefs who must use Maine lobster as the star ingredient. Guests enjoy the handcrafted lobster bites, cocktails, music and festivities. This year, 10 restaurants competed. In all, an estimated 300 pounds of lobster were consumed.
Judges were local lobsterman Corey Pottle, Maine Tourism Association President Tony Cameron, and recent Food Network “Chopped” winner, executive chef at Cattle Shed Wine & Steak Bar, Olivia Hurst. Smith’s winning “bite” was lobster thermidor stuffed puff pastry with a rich thermidor sauce of lobster stock, mushrooms, spinach brandy and cream.
Chef Ian Ronan from Thistle Inn Restaurant placed first in the People’s Choice Award and the Chef’s Choice Award with their Cantonese Lobster Dumpling with Lobster Sauce, featuring Atlantic Edge lobster, Canadian shrimp, yellow and white corn, carrot, scallion, and house-made dough. The sauce featured lobster, sherry and white pepper.
Second and third place winners in the Judge’s Choice Awards went to Chef Justin Doyle of Coastal Prime and retired, independent Chef Stephen Richards respectively. Richards has competed in most Claw Downs and won the Judge’s Choice Award in 2014.
Chef Dan Miller of Brady’s Restaurant took second place in the People’s Choice Awards and Whale’s Tale Restaurants won Best Table Décor Award.
Other competitors included Chef Sylvia Guevara of Harborside 1901, Chef Stan Hornsby of Anchor Restaurant, Chef Brandi Willis of Whale’s Tale Restaurant, Chef Mike Nguyen of Cozy’s Dockside, and Chef and Chris Foley of Brotherly Love Farms.
The event, now a decade old, sold out all general admission and VIP tickets for a total capacity of 250 attendees. Master of Ceremonies Andrew Morley kept the evening flowing, and music by the Wharf Cats filled Bristol Marine’s, The Shipyard in Boothbay Harbor apropos event space. “This is an amazing space,” said BHRCC board member James Shive. “This is a core event. It brings it all together: the locals, our fishermen, tourists, businesses, and restaurants to celebrate our working waterfront.”
BHRCC says it created the event to help promote and support the region in 2012, out of a crisis when it was cheaper to buy a lobster than a pound of hamburger, when Maine lobstermen were hurting. The result was a successful event that helped showcase this local ingredient and local chefs, restaurants and wharves. While the lobster price has thankfully changed, the love of lobster and this event has not!
“So much fun and excitement. A happy event for all, and the biggest fundraiser for the chamber,” said Julie Roberts, BHRCC board member.
The event’s presenting sponsor was Boothbay Harbor Oceanside Golf Resort. First National Bank was the legacy sponsor and affiliate sponsors were Midcoast Hospitality Group, A Maine Wedding, Action for Animals, House of Logan, Newcastle Realty, Harborside 1901, and Harborpines Hospitality + Events. Flowers were provided by Conley’s Garden Center and Landscaping.
Like so many businesses and events, Claw Down was put on hold for a few years during the COVID-19 pandemic. Claw Down 2022 marked the return of the annual event. Looking back over the event’s history, Boothbay Register has found the following first place Judge’s Award winners:
2012 – Chef Micah Jones of Brown’s Wharf
2013 – Chef Mike Ham of Tugboat Inn
2014 – Chef Stephen Richards of The World is Mine Oyster
2015 – Chef Nick Krunkkala of Thistle Inn Restaurant
2016 – Chef Delroy “Dice” Bennett of Rocktide
2017 – Chef Nathaniel Adam of Boothbay Harbor Country Club
2018 – Chef Dana Moos, Cookbook Author and Guest Chef at Stonewall Kitchens
2019-2021 – cancelled.
2022 – Chef Sylvia Guevara of Harborside 1901
2023 – Chef Ralph Smith of Mine Oyster