Pictou Lodge chef’s chowder best in Nova Scotia

Chef Thomas Carey wins Tast of NS inaugural chowder cook-off at Saltscapes Expo

Published on April 29, 2014

If you’re fishing for the best chowder in Nova Scotia, look no further than Pictou County. You’ll want to try it, if only for the halibut.

Halibut stock, that is.

The winner of the first Taste of Nova Scotia Chowder Cook-Off was Pictou Lodge Beach Resort Chef Thomas Carey, who has worked in the county since last year. Pitted against chefs from across the province, Carey, like the cream he added to his chowder, rose to the top.


“It’s a great feeling to be recognized in this way,” he said. “And what’s more Nova Scotian than chowder?”

The chowder cook-off was hosted by Taste of Nova Scotia at the Saltscapes Expo at Exhibition Park in Halifax last weekend and was attended by at least 150 people.

According to General Manager Wes Surette, the expo has historically been a great opportunity for Pictou Lodge to be showcased to a Halifax audience. Having one of the lodge’s chefs receive accolades for his chowder was a bonus.

“To be recognized in this way, it’s a huge feather in our cap,” said Surette.

Mark Gabrieau, of Gabrieau's Bistro in Antigonish placed second, while Chef Craig Flinn of Chives Canadian Bistro and 2 Doors Down placed third.

Casey’s chowder is simply called the Northumberland Seafood Chowder and is described as a creamy seafood broth enriched with double smoked bacon, Avondale Sky Tidal Bay wine and topped off with Nova Scotian mussels, fresh Atlantic scallops, haddock and fresh chopped tarragon.

The bacon and mussels came locally from The Pork Shop and AquaPrime Mussel Ranch, respectively.

To finish the chowder at the competition, Carey used a sous vide 65 C egg yolk with red tabiko caviar, and Liquid Gold olive oil.

Born and raised in Cape Breton, Carey started honing his cooking chops while still in high school. After working at the Keltic Lodge in Ingonish and other cooking gigs across the province, he traveled to Europe and China to take in more culinary adventures.

“I ended up back in Halifax but had my eye on any cooking jobs close to home in Cape Breton. When the opportunity at Pictou Lodge came up, I went for it.”

While this was the first chowder cook-off that he’s participated in, Carey has performed in high pressure and fast paced cooking competitions before.

“Well, at first I was thrown back since I’ve never been in a chowder-only contest but I guess it ended pretty well. It was a lot of pressure but a lot of fun too.”

He’s got his sights set on the Prince Edward Island Potato Seafood Chowder Champion this fall.

Casey’s grand prize includes bragging rights for the year, a set of Pictou-based Grohmann knives, a cutting board and a feature in Taste of Nova Scotia’s magazine.

For Surette and Pictou Lodge, it’s yet another sign that the lodge is not only back on its feet after a devastating fire and receivership process, but has hit the ground running.

“We had a few tough years but this is shaping up to be a great season at the lodge,” he said. “Now, we’ve been highlighted by Taste of Nova Scotia.”

Surette said the lodge has always had a great reputation for food and beverage and Carey’s latest win for the lodge reinforces it.

On June 7, the lodge will host Northumbeerfest 2014, an outdoor festival celebrating great local craft beer and great local entertainment.  Entertainment includes Thom Swift, Charlie A’Court, and JP Cormier and local craft beer including Uncle Leo’s from Scotsburn.

The Saltscapes Expo is a weekend geared toward showcasing the lifestyle of Atlantic Canada to encourage Atlantic Canadians to take ‘staycations’ here in the region and enjoy the wellness opportunities the region affords.


On Twitter: @NGNewsJohn

Chef Carey’s award-winning recipe: Northumberland Seafood Chowder

Fish Stock

2 lbs fresh halibut bones

1 onion (peeled and quartered)

1Tbsp peppercorn

2 bay leaves

2 celery stalks



Rinse off fresh halibut bones and place into stock pot, fill with cold water and bring to a simmer.Skim off foam that comes to the top and when clear add remaining ingredients.Simmer for 45 minutes and strain through fine mesh, cool immediately.

Chowder Base

2 carrots (peeled and diced)

4 potatoes (peeled and diced)

4 celery stocks (diced medium)

1large onion (diced medium)

1/2lb butter

1/2lb all-purpose flour

1.5L whipping cream

1tsp nutmeg

1/2tsp cayenne

3c white wine (Chef Thomas used Avondale Sky Tidal Bay in the Chowder Cook-Off)

3L fish stock



Melt the one pound of butter and sauté onion and celery until translucent.Add flour and cook out for about 3 to 4 minutesThen add cold fish stock and whisk until all the lumps are out.Now add the wine, cream and seasonings and finish with salt until desired amount.Simmer for 30 minutes and cool down in ice bath.Simmer the carrot and potato in separate pot until tender and cool down and add to cooled down chowder base.

To Finish

Now That everything is finished and ready, find the freshest fish and add it to the base and slowly heat this to a simmer.

1/2lb salmon (large Cubes)

1/2lb haddock (large cubes)

1/2LB smoked Haddock (small cubes)

6 scallops (cut in half)

6 large shrimp (cut in half and tail removed)

1 can clams (juice as well)

12 AquaPrime mussels

1 lemon, juiced

2 Tbsp fresh chopped Tarragon

Now that everything is in a heavy bottom pot and on medium heat, make sure to stir once in a while and have a cover on it. Once up to a simmer,  cook for about 20 to 25 minutes to make sure everything is cooked and mussels are fully opened and adjust seasoning and enjoy.

Recipe provided by:

Chef Thomas Carey, Pictou Lodge Beachfront Resort

2014 Taste of Nova Scotia Chowder Cook-Off Champion