Different regions of the world have their culinary specialties. Louisiana pretty much owns gumbo. Most people would agree that if you haven’t tried gumbo in Louisiana, you haven’t really tried gumbo. That’s not surprising since this tasty, spicy Creole dish originated here in the 18th century and folks have been handing down their carefully-crafted recipes and techniques since then. For those few readers who aren’t familiar with gumbo, it’s basically a cross between a stew and a soup containing vegetables, seafood, meat and spices. No two gumbos are alike; you’ll find that each version is unique, with its own special (and sometimes secret!) ingredients and ways of preparation. I share this blog space with my fellow writer the “Louisiana Travelin’ Man”, who is working his way through the state, trying just about every gumbo he can. You can scroll through this blog and read his reviews of the many gumbos being served at restaurants across LA.
If you want to decide for yourself who makes the best version of this iconic, aromatic dish, don’t miss the 25th World Championship Gumbo Cook-Off in the charming town of New Iberia. Situated right on the banks of the Bayou Tech in the heart of Cajun Country, New Iberia is the perfect setting for this fun, flavorful event. The festival is held in Bouligny Plaza, on historic Main Street, and runs Saturday, October 11 and Sunday, October 12. The event is free (but if you want to taste some gumbo, you will need to get your wallet out. It’s worth it.)
The actual competition is on Sunday, but there are plenty of things happening on Saturday, starting with the On Tap Roux Run, a 5k run through New Iberia…a good way to burn off some calories before hitting the food booths. This year, the festival will feature over 40 booths offering a variety of delicious Cajun and Creole dishes including jambalaya, a particular favorite of mine. And if running doesn’t suit you, you can work up a sweat dancing to the live music which will be playing all day. You can also do some shopping, check out some art galleries, take in a museum tour and much more.
But the main event, the World Championship Gumbo Cook-Off, takes place on Sunday. Make sure you get there early because the tasting begins at 11:00 a.m., and if you’re like me, you won’t want to miss a single sample! And we’re talking a lot of samples because over 100 teams are expected to compete! Actually, you should plan on getting there even earlier because the cooks start in on their unique roux by 6:00 am, and watching (and smelling!) their handiwork is fascinating and a lot of fun. By the way, a roux is a mixture of flour and fat (such as butter) used to thicken and deepen the flavor of the sauce. The roux can make or break a gumbo. At this competition, the teams must make their roux from scratch, right there on site.
This free, family-friendly event is always well attended and for good reason! Come on down and you, too, will not only have a fun-filled weekend, but you’ll also get to savor the best gumbo in the world!