Sharing a legendary Newport recipe with a new generation

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 8/1/21

The youngest (along with twin brother Eric) of Muriel Barclay de Tolly’s 6 children, Katie Potter has always been surrounded by food and family. Muriel, who was born in Nova Scotia, Canada, and …

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Sharing a legendary Newport recipe with a new generation

Posted

The youngest (along with twin brother Eric) of Muriel Barclay de Tolly’s 6 children, Katie Potter has always been surrounded by food and family. Muriel, who was born in Nova Scotia, Canada, and immigrated to the United States with her husband George, owned and operated Muriel’s restaurant, a Newport landmark, from 1985 to 1999.

Though all 6 children helped at the restaurant over the years, Katie admits none of them wanted to take it on when Muriel was ready to retire. “We all saw how hard she worked,” said Katie.

That hard work paid dividends and earned Muriel an extra measure of fame. Dared to enter her popular seafood chowder in the iconic Newport Chowder Festival, she went on to win the contest for three consecutive years — earning her a spot in the Newport, Rhode Island Chowder Hall of Fame.

Fast forward about 20 years. Katie, with a family of her own and a successful career in medical device sales, decided to market and sell spice packets as wedding favors — a sideline that both capitalizes on Newport’s popularity as a wedding venue, and keeps Muriel’s wonderful recipe alive. Then the pandemic hit.

“Suddenly, there were zero events,” said Katie. But knowing that people were still going to want delicious chowder, she decided that the pandemic was a perfect time to start a food business. Believe it or not, she was right.
With the help of the team at Hope & Main, Warren’s food business incubator, Katie took a crash course on all the state health guidelines, got necessary certifications, and learned how to scale production from her customary half-gallon cook to as many as 60 or 90 gallons at a time. She invested in a mobile cart, and has been selling her Newport Chowder Company product since October, along with soft pretzels by Buns Bakery, which she says are the perfect accompaniment.

Katie recently invested in a food truck — built out with Eric’s help — and she expects it will be fully permitted and on the road in the next week or so. With the extra space and mobility, she expects to expand her offerings. “Mom had a whole restaurant of recipes,” she said. “I have them all, handwritten in a binder and a box of index cards.” Lobster rolls are the likely first addition to the menu — and she’s already planning to work with Buns on a special brioche bun. “They’re crusty on the outside and soft on the inside — just amazing.”

Katie is very thankful for the head start she received from Hope & Main. “You may have a great idea for a food business, and their 7-week program will let you know if it is going to work or not,” she said. “For me, it clarified even more that this is something I should do.”

Recipes aren’t the only thing Muriel has passed down to Katie — she has her mother’s capacity for working hard, especially when you are passionate about your work. “I do have a lot on my plate,” she said. “I try to say yes to everyone.” Regular engagements include Newport Polo, weekends at Greenvale Vineyards, and Friday nights at the Cove in Barrington. Visit www.newportchowdercompany.com for more locations, which will likely expand with the truck on the road.

These days, Muriel, who went on to write 5 children’s books and 2 cookbooks, is 91 years old and living with Katie and her family in the family home that Muriel and George bought in 1967. Muriel has plenty of good advice and wisdom to share with Katie, and in turn, Katie hopes that she will be able to use eventual profits in the Newport Chowder Company to advocate for elder care and help people keep their own elderly family members at home for as long as possible. For Katie, as it was for Muriel, it’s all about family.

2021 by East Bay Newspapers

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