This year’s mini pot competition at the Gonzales Jambalaya Festival drew father-daughter, grandfather-grandson and brother-sister teams to the contest that eventually leads them to “graduating into bigger pots over open fire” in the main festival’s cooking competition, event organizer Cindy Savoy said.
The event, Savoy said, raises funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Dream Foundation.
The popular contest, held on the second day of the festival, has another purpose.
The tiny pot contest draws younger contestants to competitive cooking, Savoy said.
“Most of the time when the younger generation starts cooking jambalaya, they start in a smaller pot, and then they graduate (to the larger pots),” she said.
The festival also holds a contest in which previous mini-pot winners compete against each other in the Mini-Pot Champ of Champs contest.
This year’s Champ of Champs winner was 29-year-old Jared Bourque, of Gonzales.
His favorite jambalaya ingredient is hot sauce.
“I really just threw my seasoning in it. I didn’t measure or anything,” Bourque said. “I just threw it all in there and tasted it.”
Bourque continues to be drawn to the festival because he “gains friends, it’s just a good atmosphere altogether, you meet a lot of people.”
Jay Alexis and his daughter, Blair, have been taking part in the competition since 2006, and for Alexis, “it’s like a big family reunion.”
“We know whenever the cook-off competition comes up, we’re going to see family and friends that are guaranteed to be there every year,” Alexis said. “To us, that’s the most important thing.”
Nine-year-old Brock Melancon, of Gonzales, said he felt confident he could win the event and said his favorite thing to add to his jambalaya is rice. In the end, he won third place in the children’s division of the contest.
Brock’s mom, Amy Melancon, said that for them, the contest “was just a fun thing.”
“My husband has been in cooking in it, this will be his fourth year. (Brock) decided he wanted to start cooking in it, so we started playing around the house, and this is his first year doing it,” Amy Melancon said.
For 15-year-old Landon Louque, of Baton Rouge, who competed for the first time, his cooking method was “just add whatever I think it needs.”
When asked about his chances of winning, he said, “I don’t know; it looks a little dark to me. That shows that I cooked the meat too much probably. My family doesn’t cook jambalaya a lot, I just hang out with (my friend’s family) a lot, and I like it.”
Contestants of the mini-pot contest had their dishes judged based on three categories: appearance, rice texture and overall flavor. The tiny pots hold 1 cup rice, 1 cup pork, 1/2 cup sausage. It takes skill, practice and a bit of luck to get the desired flavor and rice texture needed for a win.
Savoy explained that winning can be subjective.
“It just depends on what each judge is looking for, they all have different tastes,” Savoy said.
First place winners of the competition included Wes Keller in the children’s division; Matthew Abshire, junior Division; Lyell Turner, women’s division; and Carlos Braud, men’s division.