The Block Island Times

BIMI Hosts Chowda' Fest

Poor People's Pub takes top honors
By Jack Lynch | Jun 05, 2013
Photo by: Sarah Nahabedian A group of Block Island School students help out at the annual Chowda’ Fest, sponsored by the Block Island Maritime Institute. This year, Poor People’s Pub took home first place.

Chowder fans were at Smuggler’s Cove last Sunday a half hour before the 3 p.m. start time with money in their hands. After two days of cold and damp weather over the Memorial Day weekend, folks were clamoring to be inside and savor some hot clam chowder.

The Block Island Maritime Institute (BIMI), sporting a new logo, hosted its third annual Memorial Day chowder contest on May 26. All Island restaurants and several islanders known for their chowder recipes were invited to participate. Six restaurants (Bethany’s Airport Diner, Ballard’s, The Channel Marker, The National Hotel, The Oar and Poor People’s Pub) and four home cooks (Lisa Sprague, Sue Torrey, Mike Ballard and Dave Sirowich) responded. Each contestant was required to show up by 3 p.m. with five gallons of hot chowder which was served by seventh grade students from the Block Island School.

The contest was anonymous; chowders were numbered and no one knew who made which chowder. Participants paid $10 ($5 for children) to sample the chowders and were give a large “wooden nickel” to vote for their favorite.

Music was again provided by Carol & Audrey, long time island favorites who now sail under the name “Two Hearts.” In all over 350 chowder aficionados participated and many danced to Two Hearts after tasting the chowders and voting.

First place went to Poor People’s Pub (Chef Ross Audino), a repeat from 2011, and was awarded a $100 prize. Second place carried a $75 prize and the voters chose The National Hotel (Chef Adam Nareis). Third place in the voting, and a $50 prize, went to Mike Ballard, who made a Manhattan style chowder. The first two winners cooked up New England style chowders.

BIMI also ran a raffle for a bucket of 12 lobsters and 48 clams which was won by John Henry Tripler.

The proceeds from the event will support BIMI’s summer programs which include:

  • Free lectures on Tuesdays from June through August covering a range of topics including hurricanes (e.g., Sandy!), Mystic Seaport’s restoration of the Chas. W. Morgan whaling ship and the bygone Block Island swordfish harpoon fishery.
  • Monday through Friday educational programs dealing with ecology, marine science and Block Island’s maritime history.
  • A joint educational program with The Ocean View Foundation on Saturdays.
  • Four one-week marine science programs for high school students from Cristo Rey Schools in Newark, New York City and Boston and the Paul Cuffee Maritime Charter School in Providence.

More information at

BIMI summer activities are under the direction of BIMI’s Program Director Sarah Nahabedian and several intern assistants. Sarah has a degree in Marine Biology from Roger Williams University and a master’s degree in Maritime Archaeology from Flinders University in South Australia. This is her second summer at BIMI.

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