Rocktide Inn Executive Chef Dwayne Whitelocke was still flying high on Sept. 19 after taking home two awards at the annual Claw Down Chef of the Year event on the previous Thursday evening.
Whitelock was voted the Judges’ Choice Award winner, and placed third in the People’s Choice Award category for his lobster bite. He used Rocktide's signature popover with lobster, a blueberry cognac jam, mousseline sauce, and three cheese crumble, said he was “extremely happy.”
“I wanted to use a popover to represent Rocktide, and blueberries to represent Maine,” he said.
Bar Manager John Sullivan said Whitelocke deserved all the praise he was receiving.
“This is Dwayne’s first year here and he’s taken one day off all summer,” Sullivan said. “He’s very passionate and he’s so happy.”
The People’s Choice Award winner, The World is Mine Oyster Executive Chef Steve Richards, presented a mouth-watering lobster bite in the form of a crispy fried lobster gruyere mac ‘n’ cheese with truffled “Back Yard Farms” tomato concasse and lobster Choron sauce.
“I’m extremely excited,” Richards said. “It’s a huge deal for us. It helps the restaurant and it’s a huge opportunity that we get to go to Harvest on the Harbor. Not every chef gets to be up for Chef of the Year.
“I wouldn’t mind having that on my resume.”
A new award for this year was for Chefs’ Choice Award. All chefs present were asked to place a vote for their favorite bite. The winner was the Boothbay Harbor Country Club's Executive Chef Jeremy Donovan, who has been at the club for two months.
Donovan’s winning bite was a Peruvian-style Maine lobster ceviche with mango, avocado, tostada and brown butter crema. Donovan said it was an honor to be judged by his peers.
“To make a mark food-wise was a great honor.”
Tony Bickford, Executive Chef of Thistle Inn, placed second in both the Judges’ Choice and People’s Choice Awards with his lobster tartare and black garlic mustard on a wonton crisp.
Claw Down, held once again at the Ocean Point Marina in East Boothbay, lived up to its glowing reputation at the third annual event.
With more than 400 people in attendance, scrumptious lobster “bites” were served by 18 chefs from local Boothbay Harbor restaurants.
The event was hosted by the Boothbay Harbor Region Chamber of Commerce, with Cherie Scott officiating, as the chefs competed for the title of 2014 Claw Down Chef of the Year.
The bites are actually bite-sized (although some require two or three bites) delicacies that have been designed and prepared by the restaurant's chefs and owners, and artfully displayed in an array of vessels, including one with an edible spoon, for the throngs of lobster lovers who have each paid $60 for the privilege of tasting the one-of-a-kind morsels.
Attendees from at least 14 states outside Maine, including California, New Hampshire, Washington, Kentucky, New Jersey, South Carolina, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oregon, New York, Florida, North Carolina, chowed down at Claw Down.
The event began at 6 p.m., and by the looks of the line of people waiting to enter the building, none of the 400 people wanted to be fashionably late. Many were there for their third time.
Paul and Debbie Fisch from Syracuse, New York were here for their second Claw Down.
“We came to the first one two years ago, but missed last year,” Paul Fisch said. “We planned our week vacation here this year around this event.”
Two years ago while staying at the Five Gables Inn the Fisches met a couple from Hillsborough, North Carolina.
Robert and Melissa Horner, who said this was their fifth trip to Boothbay Harbor, came to spend their vacation with the Fisches, and to attend Claw Down.
Local wedding planner Sally Bullard said she has attended all three lobster bite events.
“I always have a wonderful time, and it's fun because so many locals come.”
Abby Dunlap came not only to sample the fabulous food, but to support her daughter, Fiona, who is executive chef of Newagen Seaside Inn. Fiona Dunlap has won awards at the two previous events.
Roxanne Smith of Boothbay has come to Claw Down twice.
“It's wonderful,” she said. “How could it not be?”
One of this year's judges, Cathy Billings, author of “The Maine Lobster Industry: A History of Culture, Conservation & Commerce,” said she thoroughly enjoyed the bites.
“I've never judged a cooking contest before,” Billings said. “All of the entries were good, but the winners stood out above the rest.”
Other judges were Cal Hancock, president of Hancock Gourmet Lobster Co. and Christopher Papagni, former executive vice president of the International Culinary Institute. Kerry Altiero, 2012 Lobster Chef of the Year and chef/owner of Café Miranda in Rockland, acted as host.
The contestants were:
Boathouse Bistro & Tapas Bar, Executive Chef Karin Guerin; Boothbay Harbor Country Club, Executive Chef Jeremy Donovan; Water's Edge Banquet, Executive Chef Margaret McLellan; Boothbay Lobster Wharf, Chef/owner Todd Simmons; Brown's Wharf Inn, Executive Chef Micah Jones; Fisherman's Wharf Inn, Executive Chef Robert Spencer; McSeagull's Restaurant, Chef Devan Lemar; Newagen Seaside Inn, Executive Chef Fiona Dunlap; Capers, Executive Chef Stacy McLellan; Robinson's Wharf, Executive Chef Eric Garringer; Lobster Dock, Executive Chef Mitch Weiss; Rocktide Inn, Executive Chef Dwayne Whitelocke; Thistle Inn, Executive Chef Tony Bickford; The World is Mine Oyster, Sushi Chef Harrison Maung; The World is Mine Oyster, Executive Chef Steve Richards; Tugboat Inn, Executive Chef Roger Bintliff; Wannawaf, Executive Chefs Anya Heyl and Richard Reid; and Boothbay Harbor Yacht Club, Executive Sous Chef Robert Tetrault.
And the winners are:
Judges Choice Award:
1st Place: Rocktide Inn. Executive Chef Dwayne Whitelocke made a lobster bite using Rocktide's signature popover with lobster, a blueberry cognac jam, mousseline sauce, and three cheese crumble.
2nd Place: Thistle Inn. Executive Chef Tony Bickford's bite consisted of lobster tartare, black garlic mustard and a wonton crisp.
3rd Place: Robinson's Wharf. Executive Chef Eric Garringer's 3rd place award was for his crispy pork belly with cream cheese and herbs, lobster and crispy Parmesan frico.
People's Choice Award:
1st place: The World is Mine Oyster. Executive Chef Steve Richards' lobster bite was a crispy fried lobster gruyere mac ‘n’ cheese with truffled “Back Yard Farms” tomato concasse and lobster Choron sauce.
2nd Place: Thistle Inn. Executive Chef Tony Bickford (see bite above)
3rd Place: Rocktide Inn. Executive Chef Dwayne Whitelocke (see bite above)
Chefs’ Choice Award:
Boothbay Harbor Country Club Executive Chef Jeremy Donovan
The Judges’ Choice winner, Dwayne Whitelocke, and People’s Choice winner, Steve Richards, will represent the region in the Lobster Chef of the Year competition in October at Maine’s premier food and wine festival, Harvest on the Harbor.