Leaning over his cast-iron pot of bubbling pork and sausage Saturday, Mike Broussard wiped the sweat from his brow and measured his spices by eye, throwing them in the pot then scooping a bit to taste.
On the other side of the tent sat his younger brother, Steve Broussard, and his cooking partner, Mooney Brignac, whose only wish for the Second Chance Jambalaya Festival was for his brother and partner Greg Duplessis to lose.
While the four men exchanged playful verbal jabs, they had to admit that neither team had much success of late.
“These youngsters are coming in and kicking our tail now,” Steve Broussard said.
It was another one of the young ones who beat the men out this year for the title. Derek Diez became a three-time winner, with Troy Blair taking second and Blair Alexis, third.
But ultimately, it doesn’t matter who wins the tournament overall, as long as one of the teams places better than the other.
“It’s a long year for the loser,” Brignac said.
The four men started cooking in the Second Chance tournament around 1996, five years after it began.
The event, held at the Gonzales home of Sherry Laiche and her husband, Dooney, began as a conjunction of three birthday parties in the family with only two pots of jambalaya and quickly grew, with more family and friends participating in the cook-off each year. Saturday’s event had 23 pots.
Sherry Laiche said more than 150 friends and family showed up Saturday for the party, many of them part of her large, extended Duplessis family.
The tournament is typically in early June, only a few weeks after the Jambalaya Festival in Gonzales.
The smaller, laid-back atmosphere offers the cooks a second chance to compete and potential bragging rights for the victor.
Unlike at the Jambalaya festival, big-pot cooks compete next to those preparing the rice concoction in tiny pots, and youths compete against adults.
In the nearly 20-year span that the Broussard-brother teams have competed against each other, their records remain the same.
“We are tit for tat right now,” Steve Broussard said, but he felt confident that Saturday’s recipe was one that could set him and Brignac ahead in the win category.
While the four men stirred their pots, so did 21 other teams as children chased one another around the yard and did cannonballs in the pool.
Across the yard from the Broussard teams, newcomer Leann Dempster and her brother John Carpenter sat under their tent, hopeful about their first jambalaya entry in the Second Chance Festival. Dempster said that as a friend of the Laiche family, she has attended the festival for years but Saturday was her first attempt at cooking. “It is more stressful,” she said, “I want to make sure everything is perfect.”
Ultimately, though, the day is about sharing good times with family and friends, she said.
The man whom Dempster credited with teaching her the fine craft of jambalaya-making, Jay Alexis, agreed.
Alexis sat under his tent with his daughter, Blair, something he said separated the Second Chance Festival from others.
Alexis said the Second Chance Festival is a good opportunity for him to spend time with his family and friends, a luxury not often found at other tournaments where the desire to win is much stronger.
“All the competition here is stiff,” he said, “but it’s all about family fun.”