When Brandon Cant and Cody Vice, owners of Coast to Coast and the Cajun Kings food trucks learned that a Alex Christman, wife of Dads of Castle Rock member, Mike Christman, was diagnosed with a cancerous anaplastic oligodendroglioma grade III malignant brain tumor. They knew the medical bills and stress from her recent diagnosis would cripple the Christmans, and they felt compelled to help in any way they could.
The Coast to Coast and Cajun Kings food trucks are widely known to have some of the best clam chowder in Castle Rock. They decided to hold a Chowder Wars fundraiser that would put their recipes up against each other and let the people of Castle Rock decide who would hold the title as having the best chowder in Castle Rock, with a portion of the proceeds, all tips, and donations going to the Christmans to help pay some of their growing medical bills.
The battle between Coast to Coast and the Cajun Kings was fierce.
Coast to Coast showcased their authentic New England style chowder. Brandon explained that “the recipe he uses is 90 years old and is the same authentic chowder you would get in Boston.” Brandon said he loved the old recipe, but he wanted to make subtle changes to it to make it authentic and original to Coast to Coast.
In 2018, Brandon began exploring different dishes and experimented with ingredients he liked that would compliment the original recipe. “I wanted to find ingredients that I could use to that the recipe that I was using to the next level. A recipe that would still be authentic to New England but would be original to Coast to Coast.” Brandon experimented with 20 different recipes before he felt he had finally found the right ingredients to create his signature chowder.
I asked Brandon what he felt made his chowder stand out from other chowder recipes, and what ingredient he thought the signature ingredient was. Brandon instantly replied with serious and convinced tone, “Oh, bacon fat for sure!” Brandon continued to say that he uses flour to thicken the chowder to keep it consistent with the New England style. Lots of butter and heavy cream, extra spices and seasonings, and “a couple other things to keep it interesting.”
Cody Vice, who is originally from New Liberia, Louisiana, took a different approach to their chowder. “The south, especially in New Orleans, is known for their crawfish boils,” Cody said. There is always plenty of food left over after a crawfish boil, and it’s not realistic to eat crawfish for several days after a broil. Traditional Cajun cooking can sometimes be compared to a southern or Cajun goulash that can be made into any number of Cajun meals like chowder or Jambalaya.
I asked Cody what the main difference was between his Cajun chowder and New England chowder. “Not a lot of people in the Southport area have a lot of money,” Cody explained. “They can’t afford to waste all the food left over from a crawfish broil, so they have to do something with it.” Cajon cooking can be described as take what you can and make what you can with whatever food you have left after big meals. “You can’t spend the next however many days eating crawfish,” Cody said. “We take whatever is left from a crawfish broil; the potatoes, onions, lemons, mushrooms and dump into a big pot.”
Cody adds heavy cream, butter, some southern spices, seasonings, and lets it simmer. When I asked what his signature ingredient is, he said, “We add a milder sausage because my wife can’t eat the spicy sausage that is commonly served with crawfish. The flavor of the sausage brings all the flavors together and gives it a unique and original taste.” Cody expressed that he wanted to be as authentic to traditional southern and Cajun cooking as he could be. “I want to bring authentic Cajun cooking to Colorado.” Everything he makes is from scratch, to stay true to the roots of traditional Cajun cooking.
The turn out for the Chowder Wars fundraiser could only be described as humbling. Hundreds of people came to Burly Brewing Company to cast their vote for the best chowder, but more importantly, they came to show support and stand behind a family in pain.
“I didn’t have any expectations for how many people would come out, but I was humbled to see all the people who came to show support for us.” Mike said when I asked Mike what his expectations were for the fundraiser. “It’s so hard to become vulnerable and ask for help,” Mike continued. “The support of the Castle Rock community and the dads [Dads of Castle Rock] community outreach program is a real testament to the kind of people we have in this community.”
I asked Mike if he could convey a message to everyone who came to the Chowders Wars fundraiser, what would it be. He sat quietly for a moment and scanned the room looking at all the people who were still at Burly. “I don’t think I can find the words to say how I feel,” he said. “To know that we have the support from all these people is such a humbling and empowering feeling.” Mike continued his thought, “I just want to say that I am grateful for everyone’s support, the positive thoughts and prayers from our family and friends, and for Brandon and Cody for doing this for us.”
“I just want to say that I am grateful for everyone’s support, the positive thoughts and prayers from our family and friends, and for Brandon and Cody for doing this for us.”Mike christman
The Chowder Wars raised over $1,000 to go towards the Christman’s medical bills. The true profit, however, was the show of support from the community. It is these actions that set the Castle Rock community apart from all other communities.