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75 cooks competing for the Jambalaya World Champion title in Gonzales

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GONZALES- The flames are high and the pots are hot! Dozens of cooks spent all day Saturday stirring their jambalaya pots in with the hopes of winning the world champion title. Only 32 of 75 cooks will move onto the semi-finals happening Sunday.

"You gotta make the rice taste like chicken, and make it pretty. It's gotta be big fat swole rice," 2013 Champion Scott Duplechein said.

Due to the pandemic, these cooks haven't competed in two years and this weekend the heat is on.

"The last time we had this was 2019. I advanced to the semi finals, but I have a high standard for myself. I like to cook in the finals every year. Missed out that year. Hopefully we'll get back there this year," Duplechein said.

"This is like a big family reunion or a high school reunion every year. So it's doubly good," Layne Gautreaux with the Jambalaya Festival Association said.

One person excited to be back, field judge, Harold Groskopf.

"There's a lot more talk and camaraderie than I usually hear. It's all good, I can't tell too much difference. If you took me out, and didn't tell me what year it was, I couldn't tell you it hadn't been," Groskopf said.

Groskopf and his wife were visiting New Orleans from Pensacola, Fla., 15 years ago when they discovered the Jambalaya Festival. Due to the good food and the kindness of the people, they kept coming back.

"Well the first two or three years I was a spectator. Mike saw me hanging around, asked me if I would help, they were short on help. I said sure and I really like getting over here closer to the cooks, talking to them. On the other side of the fence you don't learn anything," Groskopf said.

Another person happy the festival is back in full motion, Miss Gonzales Jambalaya Queen Tara Babin.

"To wait three years for the festival was super long, but I'm ecstatic that were back and have these ladies with me to celebrate," Babin said.

Since winning the title in 2019, Babin is now able to participate in the tradition of showing other festival queen's what Gonzales is all about.

"Every weekend when you travel with these girls, you really do make a good connection and bonds, so I'm happy to have these ladies here with me on a Saturday to celebrate," Babin said.

Babin will hand over the crown to the new queen in a couple of weeks after the pageant, that is held on June 11.

For a full schedule of events, click here.


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