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Traditional boudin is wrapped for sale on the final day of the Scott Boudin Festival, Sunday, April 7, 2019, in Scott, LA.

Robert Carriker, founder of Lafayette’s annual boudin cook-off, first explored his connection with food when he was in Italy, back in 1988.

“I was based in Florence for a year, and I was surprised by how everybody there embraces food to build relationships and establish connections,” he said.

After Carriker moved to Lafayette to be a history professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, he found the same approach to food in Cajun Country.  And he fell in love with it.

“This is one of the reasons why I started this event 14 years ago,” Carriker said. “It was just for fun the first time, a sort of boudin neighborhood event. But so many people came over that I felt the responsibility not to stop organizing it.”

On Saturday, Carriker will oversee the 14th annual boudin cook-off at Parc International in downtown Lafayette. This year, bacon will join the show.

“Why bacon? Well, because everybody loves bacon!” said Carriker, a Washington State native. “We’re so happy to be back in 2021 with a safe outdoor event, following all mandated safety protocols, and also providing boudin and bacon dishes from some of the best of the Cajun region,” he said.

This year, 19 specialty meat shops will offer their versions of boudin, which is a traditional French sausage. Varieties will range from the standard Cajun variety, which consists of pork meat and rice, plus various vegetables, and seasoning, to more creative varieties that include chicken, beef, and cream cheese.

“There is a type of it that looks like a Cajun version of a Sicilian Arancina, fried and rounded, but with cream cheese and jalapenos inside,” Carriker said. “I don’t even know how many possible ways to use boudin and to innovate with boudin are out there. Let me tell you, I literally lost count."

The cookoff will also feature live music, including the Specklers, the Babineaux Sisters, and a two-hour jam session from the Blue Monday All-Stars.

There will be contests, too. At 11:30, contestants will gather for Louisiana's only boudin ball eating contest. At 1:15, there will be a boudin and bacon eating contest.

The 19 specialty meat shops, some coming from Texas, will compete for the best boudin in Louisiana, the best bacon dish, and the people’s choice award.

“We’re committed to making this family-friendly, and to reach that goal, we will give away free ice cream sandwiches, offer free face-painting and kids games. We invite everyone to enjoy the music and fun,” Carriker said.

The free event will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 16, sponsored by Courvelle Toyota, BoudinLink.com, Coca-Cola, and the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission. Entries, information, and schedules can be found on the Boudin Cook-Off Facebook page or the cookoff website at www.boudincookoff.com.