Red, White & Roux Gumbo Cookoff
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By Michelle Matthews Calloway
Mouths are watering, palates are sharpening and eyes are watching the calendar in anticipation of the 24th Annual World Championship Gumbo Cook-Off slated for Oct. 11-13 in downtown New Iberia. The three-day event hosted by the Greater Iberia Chamber of Commerce is enjoyed by residents and the more than 40,000 visitors who will pour into New Iberia on the second Friday of October. The official Cook-Off poster designed by Steve Seneca; postcards, t-shirts and more will also be available for purchase. Seneca is also the artist who designed the 2013 Sugar Cane Festival Poster.
United With A Reunion
When you go to the Cook-Off, don’t just come for the gumbo because you never know who you might see. Last year’s special guests included father and son duo Troy Landry and Jacob Landry from the popular Swamp People™ television series. This year features a unique twist because former support personnel, instructors and student pilots based at the New Iberia Naval Station are returning for a 50-year reunion during the same time as the Cook-Off. Bud Forrest, Dick Spears, Paul Fair and David Degroat say they expect more than 200 attendees to attend the “Navy Air and Cajun Fare” reunion. The planners wanted Reunion attendees to experience the Cook-Off, which wasn’t held in the 1960s when the Navy pilots were training at the NAAS base. Forrest says, “Our reunion will be held the same weekend as New Iberia’s World Championship Gumbo Cook-Off.” In addition to a get together at the hangar, visits to local attractions and golfing, Forrest says the reunion will include “more varieties of Cajun food and gumbo than you can imagine.”
Chamber President/Chief Executive Officer Janet Faulk-Gonzales was thrilled when she heard the Reunion was scheduled to coincide with the Cook-Off. “The World Championship Gumbo Committee immediately went to work at recognizing the reunion and the engagement of all our military forces in the theme and design of this year’s event.” Faulk-Gonzales says. “It has been interesting to learn more about the impact of the NAAS on our parish. The organizing team has been a pleasure to work with.”
A Patriotic Theme
The patriotic theme “Red, White and Roux” was chosen for the Cook-Off to honor the Reunion. According to Forrest, the Iberia Medical Center gumbo team plans to wear t-shirts emblazoned with the Reunion logo. The Reunion logo was designed by Sharon Whitcomb Arthur, wife of former NAAS student pilot J.R. Arthur and features a caricature of a “retired” plane complete with a cane, glasses and dentures. The Reunion is the last opportunity for those who left New Iberia and NAAS to return from as far away as California and Rhode Island to come and catch up with their former students, instructors and co-workers over a delicious cup of gumbo.
The weekend kicks off Friday night at the Steamboat Pavilion in Bouligny Plaza with the sounds of the Nik-L-Beer Band from 7-10 p.m. Start your day early Saturday morning at 8 a.m. and participate in the Roux Run (5k and 1-mile fun run) hosted by On Tap. Live music will fill the air all day. Savvy shoppers will be able to snag some good deals from downtown merchants and the culturally-minded can engage in museum tours. Saturday will also afford hungry attendees the opportunity to partake of the best in delicious Cajun and Creole cuisine at food booths manned by approximately 50 teams cooking anything BUT gumbo during the lunch hour. Get ready to lick your fingers as you dine on jambalaya, corn and crab bisque, fried fish, red beans and rice, funnel cakes and tasty, decadent desserts. Tickets will be available for purchase to sample food to your heart’s content, and you can also quench your thirst with a variety of soft drinks, cold beer and mixed drinks.
On Sunday, the familiar smell of roux made from scratch will permeate the air. Competing teams must prepare the roux on site without using electricity. The “Gumbo Police” inspects each team’s ingredients before they begin cooking and patrol the plaza throughout the day to ensure competitors abide by the “Gumbo Code of Ethics.”
Sunday is the day attendees will finally be able to sample gumbo made by the nearly 100 of the best local, national and international teams. Tasting from the “Battle of the Rouxs,” or the cook-off begins at 11 a.m. when the teams compete for the bragging rights to the World Champion Gumbo Cook-Off title. Three categories, seafood, chicken and sausage, and mélange are open to amateurs. Tickets are $4 for seafood and $3 for non-seafood gumbos and you can purchase a cold brew or soda to wash it all down.
The winner who will claim the title of “Best Gumbo In The World” will be announced at 3:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon. Attendees at the Cook-Off will be able to dance off some of the pounds they gain when they boogie to the live music sounds of Geno Delafose & French Rockin’ Boogie, Jamie Bergeron & The Kickin’ Cajuns, Ryan Foret & Foret Tradition, Grammy Award Winner Chubby Carrier & The Bayou Shrimp Band and Chris Ardoin & NuStep Zydeco. The McIlhenny Company is the Cook-off’s 2013 Legacy Sponsor and corporate sponsors include Cypress Bayou Casino & Hotel, COX, South Louisiana GMC and Van Eaton & Romero. For more details visit iberiachamber.org/gumbo-cookoff.
See you there – we have our bowls and spoons ready. C’est si bon, yeah!