Chowdafest, presented by Stop & Shop, is on a “ChowdaQuest” to find restaurants and chefs for the annual competition, which raises money for the Connecticut Food Bank.

This year, potential competitors can earn their way into the annual competition.

“We’ve caught the attention of great restaurants across the state and have a long waiting list of chefs who want to compete and show they're the best” said Jim Keenan, event creator and director. “It’s ironic that we’re having a playoff of sorts to qualify for an event that’s held on the Super Bowl each year.”

Chowdafest is limited to 28 restaurants. Restaurants who finished in the top three last year in each category automatically qualify to compete again.

A total of 12 spots can be earned through ChowdaQuest — three in each category — with a remaining category spot reserved for “at-large” bids by the Chowdafest committee.

During the month of October through Thanksgiving, restaurants competing in ChowdaQuest are offering a soup sampler appetizer where customers use their smartphone to vote for which soup or chowder they think the restaurant should enter. Restaurants with the most votes will fill the vacant slots.

“We’re excited to show what we can do,” said Christopher Molyneux, executive chef at Parallel Post in Trumbull. “It’s great competition, a great cause and a terrific opportunity to let people know about us. It gives new restaurants like us a chance to earn our way into what has become both a fun and prestigious competition with other great chefs and restaurants.”

“It’s a no brainer” said Dick Gildersleeve, owner of the Crab Shell in Stamford who won for their lobster bisque. “Brewery's offer a beer sampler. Some restaurants offer an appetizer sampler. We have four chowders and bisques on our menu every day and we never realized people might want to try all of them. It’s a simple but brilliant concept that people really like.”

Three-time champion, Ginger Man of Norwalk, is also competing despite automatically qualifying. “We decided to retire our award-winning sweet potato soup from the competition and enter something new” said Casey Dohme, restaurant manager. “Participating in ChowdaQuest allows us to test three new soups we're considering and the voting feedback will help tells us what customers like the best”.

ChowdaQuest is an open competition for restaurants only and there's still time to join the competition. There are currently more than 60 restaurants either already in the competition or considering it. “Chowdafest has become a state wide event” said Keenan. “We're excited to see restaurants from Stamford to Mystic involved. Great restaurants from New Haven and Hartford areas, too. You never know where you'll find great soup. We even have a new Indian food concept restaurant called Tikkaway in New Haven that wants to show their stuff. The culinary talent is immense.”

For additional information about ChowdaQuest and Chowdafest, please visit www.chowdafest.org or email event chairperson Jim Keenan at chowdafest@optonline.net.

ChowdaQuest is sponsored by CT Bites.com and Sierra Nevada Beer who will also be the exclusive beer at Chowdafest as the event will now offer beer sampling to compliment the competition.

Restaurants currently competing or considering the competition include: Atlantic Seafood (Old Saybrook), Barnum Publick House (Bridgeport), Black Duck (Westport), Blue Lemon (Westport), Bobette's (Milford), Bobby Q's (Westport), Bodega Taco Bar (Fairfield, Darien), Brewhouse (Norwalk), Carmen Anthony's Fish House (Woodbury), Close Harbour Seafood (Plantsville), Crab Shell (Stamford), Donovan's (Norwalk), Dressing Room (Westport), Dunville's (Westport), Ginger Man (Norwalk), Guvnor's Brewery (Norwalk), High Tide Gourmet (Madison), Indigo by the Water (Milford), Larry & Joe's Fish Tales (New Haven), Liquid Lunch (Shelton, Milford), Little Pub (Wilton, Georgetown), Madden's Gastropub (New Haven), Mansion Clam House (Westport), Max's Fish (Glastonbury), Max's Oyster House (West Hartford), Mecha Noodle (Fairfield), Monte's River Grille (Milford), Old Post Tavern (Fairfield), O'Neill's (Norwalk), Oyster River Tavern (West Haven), Parallel Post (Trumbull), Post 154 (Westport), Redding Road House (Redding), Rive Bistro (Westport), Rory's (Darien), S&P Oyster House (Mystic), Sage American Grill & Oyster Bar (New Haven), School House at Cannondale (Wilton), Season at Oak Lane (Woodbridge), Seawich Café (Brandford), SoNo Seaport Seafood (Norwalk), Southport Brewing Company (Stamford, Fairfield, Milford, Shelton), Splash (Westport), Stowe's Seafood (West Haven), Super Duper Weenie Dog (Fairfield), Szabo's Seafood (Shelton), Tavern on Main (Westport), The Chelsea (Fairfield), The Elm (New Canaan), The Restaurant at 323 (Westport), The South End (New Canaan), The Spread (Norwalk), Tikkaway Grill (New Haven), Two Boots (Bridgeport), USS Chowder Pot (Brandford), Valencia's Luncheria (Norwalk) and Wood 'n Tap (Orange, Wallingford, Southington, Hartford, Vernon, Farmington & Rocky Hill).