Categories: Culinary, Festivals/Events, Nightlife, See & Do

Top 6 Things to Catch at the PEI International Shellfish Festival

It’s time to embrace your shellfish side! The PEI International Shellfish Festival, Canada’s largest festival in honour of mollusks and crustaceans, returns to downtown Charlottetown for its 23rd year of shell-ebration!  

From September 13 to 16, the Charlottetown Event Grounds will play host to a jam-packed schedule of intense culinary competitions, live cooking demos, plenty of shellfish feasting, and roof-raising kitchen parties with some of Canada’s favourite party bands. Get the insider’s scoop on the Top 6 Things to Catch at the PEI International Shellfish Festival (pun intended!)

1. Start Off Strong with Feast & Frolic

Photo Credit: Sandpiper Studios

The gala eating event of the Festival, Feast & Frolic was made with shellfish lovers in mind. Featuring fresh PEI lobster, mussels, oysters, chowder, prime Island beef and more, it’s an unforgettable evening of culinary excellence hosted by the one and only Chef Lynn Crawford.

Start your night off with a visit to the World’s Greatest Oyster Bar during the ‘Frolic’. Sample over 20 varieties of fresh PEI oysters with unique tasting notes and chat with local oyster growers and shuckers that’ll share their tips on how to best enjoy this delicacy from the sea. Make sure you ‘frolic’ your way over to the award-winning potato chowders on offer and dig into the piles of PEI blue mussels being served up as well.

Photo Submitted by PEI International Shellfish Festival

After much frolicking, you’ll be ready to sit down for an epic feast! Featuring wild caught cracked PEI lobster and “AAA” Certified Island Beef Strip Loin along with seasonally-inspired sides, this is one surf & turf experience you don’t want to miss! Making it even more spectacular, the final touches to your meal will be prepared tableside by the chefs competing in the Garland Canada International Chef Challenge.

2. Cheer on the Island’s Best!

Photo Credit: Al Douglas via @alexgdouglas on IG

Have you ever tried to shuck an oyster? How about hundreds of them against the ticking of a clock?  What ratio of seafood to potatoes to cream makes for an award-winning chowder? How fast could you tie a mussel sock?

Prepare to be wowed as PEI’s most talented shuckers, chefs, bartenders and sock tiers strut their stuff on the mainstage and compete to win bragging rights and cold hard cash. Of course, they’ve got to prove they’re the best at what they do -  whether that be shucking PEI oysters the fastest, creating the best PEI Potato Chowder, tying buoys and mussel socks or making a mean Caesar.

Competitions go down Friday, Saturday and Sunday - check out the schedule for times and prepare to be wowed by the skill and passion of the competitors. Who knows, you might even snag a sample of yummy competition chowder if you’re in the right place at the right time!

2017 Award-Winning Potato Chowder by Chef Mitchell Jackson of the Claddaugh Oyster House | Photo Credit: Sandpiper Studios


3. Get Your Dancing Shoes On!

There’s no point in having a festival to celebrate PEI shellfish unless you’re going to pair it with epic kitchen party fun! Over the years, the Festival has become well-known (and loved!) for its roof-raising, foot-stomping parties on Friday and Saturday night featuring high-energy bands that know how to get people on the dance floor and keep ‘em there.

Photo Submitted by PEI International Shellfish Festival

This year’s headlining bands are Signal Hill (Friday, Sept 14) from Newfoundland, and Big Bad Party Band (Saturday, Sept 15) from Moncton, New Brunswick. Both bands have rocked the tent in previous years and proven they’ve got serious kitchen party chops.  #Protip: Arrive early in the evening to snag prime access to the dance floor and bar wink

4. Don’t Miss the NEW Junior Chef Challenge with Chef Michael Smith

The next crop of aspiring chefs will be testing their culinary chops at the all new Junior Chef Challenge hosted by Chef Michael Smith!

Get ready for an awe-inspiring display of kitchen skills and creativity as six culinary masters aged 9 to 11 compete to win a whopping $1,000 cash prize and bragging rights as the Junior Chef Champion.

Chef Michael Smith | Photo Submitted by PEI International Shellfish Festival

The young competitors, who each earned their place in the competition by submitting a video application, will have 45 minutes to create a mouth-watering, gorgeous dish that showcases PEI shellfish, including mussels, oysters, lobster and clams. Just like in the big leagues, there’ll be a twist ingredient the junior chefs must incorporate into their dishes, which Chef Michael will be harvesting from his own farm.

5. Fill Up at the Shellfish Pavillion

Photo Credit: Al Douglas via @alexgdouglas on IG

Between dancing up a storm and watching those intense culinary competitions, you’re guaranteed to work up an appetite! When hunger strikes head to the Festival’s Shellfish Pavillion to fill up on every kind of shellfish-inspired dish you could imagine, from fried oyster pogey boy sandwiches to bottled PEI bar clams to crab cakes to lobster grilled cheese and more. Of course, you can also order up such classics as raw oysters and steamed mussels, along with refreshments to wash it all down. 

6.  Get Front Row Seats for the Biggest Competition of the Festival

If you’re a fan of tv shows like Chopped or Top Chef Canada, you’re going to love the Garland Canada International Chef Challenge. Be sure to snag front row seats for this high-stakes culinary competition that pits 12 talented chefs from across Canada in an epic battle for the title of Garland Chef Champion and $10,000 in cash.

Photo Submitted by PEI International Shellfish Festival

It’s going to be an especially star-studded event this year, with six former competitors from Top Chef Canada bringing their A-game to the challenge, along with 6 other award-winning chefs from across the country. The full list of chef competitors is as follows: Jinhee Lee (2017 Garland Canada Champion and Top Chef Canada Final 4), Ross Larkin (Top Chef Canada winner), Mark Singson (runner up, Top Chef Canada), JP Miron (Top Chef Canada Final 4), Darren Rogers,  Jesse Zuber, Jesse MacDonald (representing PEI!), Jacob Taylor, Darren MacLean, Jonny O’Callaghan, Mariam Echeverría and Michelle Matheson. Check the competitors’ bios here and choose who you’ll be rooting for!


There’s plenty more to see, do and eat at the PEI International Shellfish Festival, so be sure you check out the full program of events and plan accordingly.  And while you’re visiting Charlottetown, take some time to explore the city’s thriving culinary scene which includes three craft breweries, a multitude of eating establishments, several farmers’ markets, and hands-on food tours/experiences.

*Cover Photo Credit: @eatwithjessie via Instagram