If you’re a whiz around the kitchen and love trying new, inventive recipes, you might have a shot at this year’s Maine Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest (and that $525 in prize money that goes along with it!). 

Each year, this particular event attracts visitors and contestants from all over the world to Rockland, Maine, as amateur chefs age 18 and older compete for the title. And the rules are fairly simple: the dish just has to incorporate seafood found in Maine waters and it must be simple enough for the audience to recreate at home.

Last year, Mainer Eric Frate won the competition with his “Clam Jam Casino,” which was a bacon-y, garlicky and cheesy rendition of classic Clams Casino.

Out of more than a hundred hopeful contestants, only five chefs are selected to compete, and the top-three recipes are chosen as winners and awarded cash prizes.

Maine Lobster Festival president Celia Crie Knight has run the contest for the last 10 years and has some inside tips.

“We always have three judges who sample everything, and the audience gets to sample everything along with the judges,” she said. 

“Since food-cooking shows have been a national craze for a long time now, the audience is more sophisticated when it comes to the winning dish,” she continued. “They come with questions for the contestants; there is a lot of media publicity around it and the contestants usually do interviews. Even though it’s a lot of fun, it’s also a serious competition and everyone goes in with their best.”

As evidenced by last year’s winner, not every dish has to incorporate Maine lobster. “One of the judging criteria is simplicity,” said Crie Knight. “They want to taste a recipe that is delicious but not so complicated that the audience members couldn’t go home and make it themselves.”

Some winning and honorable-mention dishes from previous years include: Asian-inspired Fresh Herb and Lobster Salad, Seafood Shortcake, Basin Point Lobster Salad and Lobster Mac & Mornay.

You can find registration details as well as specifics regarding prizes, competition date and judging times for The Maine Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest online at www.mainelobsterfestival.com. The deadline for entries is July 15.

The 2019 Maine Lobster Festival will be held July 31 – August 4 at Harbor Park in Rockland.