Robert Carriker moved to Lafayette from the state of Washington to work at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and fell in love with something he couldn’t find back home: boudin.
Carriker has since made Acadiana boudin his pastime passion, creating the website BoudinLink.com, authoring “Boudin: A Guide to Louisiana’s Extraordinary Link” and organizing the Boudin Cook-off in downtown Lafayette, which marks its eighth anniversary on Saturday.
“It started out as something just for fun,” Carriker said of the website, which preceded the cook-off and the book. “I found an amazing community connection — my own connection — to the culture through boudin.”
After sampling and reviewing boudin throughout Acadiana for BoudinLink.com, Carriker wanted to showcase boudin samples on one day in one place so connoisseurs of the encased spiced-pork-and-rice product can taste and compare. The Boudin Cook-off features several producers who offer samples to ticket holders — eight tickets cost $5 — and judges pick winners in two categories: the unlinked category, which is boudin used in cooking, and the People’s Choice, voted on by the general public.
“It’s not so much of a competition, rather a celebration of what they do,” Carriker explained. “We created the unlinked category to inspire boudin makers to be creative in their use of boudin.”
Over the past eight years, boudin makers have been thinking outside the casing, Carriker said, coming up with innovative uses of boudin that are now being seen on many Acadiana menus. Examples include the “Sweet Baby Breesus” dish at French Press that marries biscuit sliders with bacon, fried boudin balls and Steen’s cane syrup for a breakfast sandwich, and the more recent boudin king cakes for Carnival, created by Twins Burgers and Sweets.
“That wasn’t happening eight years ago,” Carriker said. “Certainly not like it’s happening now. I think eight years of us promoting the unlinked category has changed the culinary landscape in that regard.”
Other boudin events have popped up since Carriker began the Boudin Cook-off in Lafayette. Lake Charles started its Boudin Wars, a similar competition, in 2011 and the third annual Scott Boudin Festival was held in April.
“They say imitation is the highest form of flattery,” Carriker said. “I feel very flattered these days.”
The eighth annual Boudin Cookoff is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday in Parc San Souci in downtown Lafayette. In addition to 14 boudin makers serving samples and competing, there will be children’s activities, face painting and music by the Rex Street Rounders, The Specklers and Zydeco Radio. For those with a hearty appetite, there’s a boudin-eating contest.
Admission is free but tickets for drinks and boudin samples must be purchased.
For more information on Saturday’s Boudin Cookoff, visit boudincookoff.com .