A festival to celebrate a Valley economic driver

The BC Shellfish and Seafood Festival is offering a host of events throughout the Comox Valley from June 9 to 19.

Chef Nathan Fong with West Restaurant chef Quang Dang at a cooking demonstration.

The BC Shellfish and Seafood Festival — the largest of its kind in Western Canada — is offering a host of events throughout the Valley from June 9 to 19, showcasing the best of the province’s seafood industry, its producers and its bounty.

“The 10th anniversary of Comox’s signature shellfish festival will be better than ever,” Comox Mayor Paul Ives said. “Now known as the BC Shellfish and Seafood Festival, it will have significant economic benefits for tourist operators, local restaurants and hotels, and shellfish/seafood producers. There is an unprecedented number of international seafood and shellfish buying groups here, along with keynote speakers that will help to make it the best yet.”

Locally, the multi-million dollar shellfish industry employs several hundred people at such operations as Fanny Bay Oysters, Mac’s Oysters and the Baynes Sound Oyster Co.

“It’s a significant employer in my area,” Area A director Bruce Jolliffe said. “From the stats, we grow over half the shellfish in British Columbia within Baynes Sound.

“Just like any resource industry, there’s secondary jobs that get generated,” he added. “You always have what we call, ‘The multiplier factor’.”

The signature event of this year’s festival is the June 18 Comox by the Sea Celebration at Filberg Park in Comox. It features a shucking championship emceed by Toronto’s Shucker Paddy — a Guinness Book of World Record holder and international shucking champion.

The shucking competition is open to anyone and the grand prize is a trip to Prince Edward Island’s Shellfish Festival to compete in the Raspberry Point International Oyster Shucking Championship.

Visit the BC Shellfish and Seafood Festival microsite at discovercomoxvalley.com to register.

Speaking of competitions, while you are there, make sure to check out the Ocean Wise Chowder Challenge. Cheer on chefs as they compete for the title of ‘Best Chowder.’ Participating restaurants include Fluid Bar & Grill, Courtenay; Seamount Marine Ltd, Qualicum Beach; Beach Bay Cafe, Victoria; and Billy D’s Bistro, Courtenay.

The winning participant will be awarded a trip to Vancouver to compete in the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown!

The Comox By The Sea Celebration will also showcase award-winning chefs Hidekazu Tojo of Tojo’s Restaurant, Quang Dang and his acclaimed West Restaurant, and foodstylist/media personality Nathan Fong, representing BC Seafood.

The festival also incorporates a Seafood Expo, June 9 and 10, which will bring together producers and exporters from around the Pacific Northwest. There will be seminars, speakers, B2B meetings with 40 international seafood buyers, facility site tours and a trade show at the Westerly. Minister of Agriculture Norm Letnick will attend, along with 30 industry speakers and 30 trade show exhibitors.

A June 10 Fresh Fest will showcase the talents of some of B.C.’s top chefs, including Ronald St. Pierre (Locals Restaurant) and Nyle Petherbridge (Kingfisher).

“All of us are working hard to create special dishes that best showcase B.C.’s marine bounty,” chef Ned Bell said.

New festival events include a Chef’s Shellfish Showdown, June 12 at 40 Knots Winery; the K’omoks Estuary Seafood Dinner, June 15 at Locals; the Jelly Fish Project, June 14 at the Sid Williams Theatre; and Shells, Sips and Savour, June 14 at the Prime Chophouse and Wine Bar.

Tickets for all the events are available at the BC Shellfish and Seafood Festival microsite at discovercomoxvalley.com

Have a taste

The tasting stations are always a big hit at the Comox By The Sea Celebration.

Sample the best of British Columbia’s award winning shellfish and seafood producers and restaurants.

Here’s an idea of what is on the menu:

• Smoked Salmon from Marine Harvest (presented by Salish Sea Foods)

• Fresh shucked raw oysters with lemon, tabasco and prepared horseradish (presented by Fanny Bay Oysters)

• Barbecued BC farmed salmon (presented by BC Salmon Farmers Association)

• House marinated sockeye salmon with sweet chili glaze on artisan greens with honey yogurt dressing (presented by Union Street Grill)

• Fish Tacos (presented by Billy D’s Pub & Bistro)

• Fish Kottu – mix of marinated salmon with chopped veggies, farm eggs and homemade roti (presented by Ceylon Cuisine & Spices)

• Candied salmon mousse cup (presented by Custom Gourmet Catering)

• Seafood chowder and seafood ceviche salad (presented by Fluid Bar & Grill)

• Panko crusted Halibut with greens and fruit compote (presented by North Vancouver Island Chefs Association)

• Deep-fried oysters with signature sauce (presented by Mac’s Oysters and Westcoast Mobile Kitchen)

And even a lemonade stand, presented by the Tour de Rock team.

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