Finish Your Chowder Or No Chocolate Eclair

My grandfather started making Chowder 100 years ago in Fall River, Massachusetts. I wasn’t real fond of clams in my early days but he had a great trick.  He put chocolate éclairs in the middle of the table. If I didn’t finish my Chowder, I didn’t get a chocolate éclair.  I loved those éclairs . . . . . . pretty soon I grew to love what has since become Duke’s Three-Time Award-Winning Clam Chowder.

When I opened my first Duke’s, I already knew that I needed something unique to serve my guests. And I knew that I loved clam chowder. So, I decided to pick up where my grandfather left off. I set out to create a recipe for the best clam chowder “if not in all of New England, surely in all of Seattle, or why not, the best in the world!”

The Competition

I began experimenting with Jack Jones, one of my chefs, to create the very best chowder recipe anywhere. Based on my years of experience eating countless bowls of clam chowder, I knew exactly what I was looking for. I wanted Duke’s chowder to have a distinct fresh herb flavor and creamy texture with a fragrant but not overpowering clam taste. Together, Jack Jones and I tackled the original recipe handed down from my grandfather, improving a little more with each successive pot. Finally, when we thought we had it mastered, it was time to put our new recipe to the test in the real world.

We introduced our chowder in a massive Chowder Cook-Off held in Seattle in the 1980s. All the local seafood restaurants were invited to bring their best chowder recipe and hand it over to the judges. Jack and I were confident our chowder would stand out. And we were right.

Duke’s chowder won by a landslide that first year.

For three consecutive years, Duke’s chowder beat out the competition. It was declared the best clam chowder in Seattle, which I knew would have made my grandfather proud. After winning three years in a row, I was asked not to compete.  Apparently, the other restaurants weren’t going to participate anymore if we stayed in the contest.  This being a fund raiser for one of my favorite charities, I accepted their offer to give us the Gold Ladle Award, become a celebrity judge and retire our undefeated Chowder.  But the greatest prize had been won. Duke’s recipe was now the benchmark for all other clam chowders, successfully establishing our restaurant as the place to go for the best chowder in Seattle, if not the world! It was that special ‘thing’ that we could offer our guests. And it was the first step in my lifelong journey to set my restaurants apart from the competition.

Duke's Chowderhouse dishes

Duke’s Clam Chowder beat out the competition three years in a row.

The Chowder Revolution

While developing our award-winning chowder recipe, my head was spinning. Questions raced through my mind. Could anything be better than clam chowder? Could I use some of the ideas we had developed to create new chowder dishes? The possibilities seemed endless.

The kitchen remains a laboratory for me and my chefs to this day, as we develop more and more delicious recipes for all kinds of chowder and seafood. Today, at Duke’s Chowder House we offer five different chowder dishes, ranging from Dungeness Crabby Baby Bisque to the Ragin’ Cajun Chicken Corn Chowder and Lobster Mobster Pernod Chowder. I refuse to claim a favorite, declaring them all spectacular. When asked to pick a favorite, I simply reply, “you just have to try the Chowder at Dukes!”

The Recipe That Started It All

So here it is; the recipe that launched Duke’s Chowder House from a small locally owned restaurant to a nationally recognized leader in the sustainable food movement. It’s important to remember that this recipe was adapted from my grandfather’s original. I was inspired by him to create this award-winning chowder, and I continue to be inspired by my guests. It’s what motivates me to source the finest sustainable, Wild Seafood in the world, for each of my six restaurants.


Dukes Award-Winning Clam Chowder

[Makes ¾ gallon]

2 cups baby red potatoes, diced medium
4 slices nitrite-free bacon
½ cup Darigold butter
2 cups onions, diced medium
2 cups celery, diced medium
1 Tbsp fresh garlic, diced small
½ cup flour or Duke’s Gluten Free Flour Blend
2 Tbsp Clam base
1½ cups Clam juice
1½ cups milk
2½ cups heavy whipping cream
½ tsp fresh organic basil leaves, diced small
1 tsp fresh organic thyme, stems removed, diced small
½ tsp fresh marjoram, diced small
½ tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp fresh organic parsley, stems removed, diced small
1 Tbsp fresh organic dill, stems removed, diced small
1 lb IQF (individually quick frozen) Surf Clams (all natural)


  • Blanch potatoes in boiling water until tender. Drain and set aside.
  • In a separate bowl, mix Clam base with Clam juice until dissolved.
  • Chop bacon (diced medium), and cook in heavy-bottomed saucepan until crispy. Add butter, onions, celery and garlic, and sauté until tender.
  • Then, add flour and stir well to incorporate. This is the roux. Continue stirring and bring mixture to 175 degrees. Then cook for exactly 7 minutes. Do not brown the roux.
  • Add Clam base/Clam juice mixture to the roux. (Adding it after the roux has cooked prevents roux balls from forming.)
  • Add the milk and cream, then the herbs. Heat until 185 degrees, blending constantly with a wire whisk.
  • Add blanched red potatoes and Clams. Simmer at 185 degrees for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn heat down and hold at 165-175 degrees.

Book a reservation at one of our six locations to try Duke’s Award-Winning Clam Chowder for yourself, or try one of the other outstanding Chowder dishes created by my chefs and me.

March 6, 2017