Popular Gumbo Cook-off returns to Folk Festival

The Louisiana Gumbo Cook-Off is returning to the Natchitoches-NSU Folk Festival on Saturday July 22, in air-conditioned Prather Coliseum located at 220 South Jefferson Street on the Northwestern State University campus in Natchitoches. In honor of this year’s festival theme, Celebrating Louisiana’s Cultural Gumbo, the festival will see the long-awaited return of the Gumbo Cookoff, in which professionals and hobbyists alike can compete in any of three categories and demonstrate their cooking skills. Registration and the Cooks’ Meeting will take place at 8 a.m. Tasting and judging will begin at 12:30 p.m. with winners be announced at 2:30 p.m. There is no fee to compete in the Cookoff. Gumbo must be cooked on-site outside of Prather Coliseum.

The Gumbo Cook-Off is the Louisiana Folklife Center’s way of celebrating the state’s unique and storied foodways, as well as the rich culture behind the cooking of gumbo. The ways of preparing gumbo and the ingredients used are as varied as the people who cook it, so there is no better way to embody this year’s festival theme of Celebrating Louisiana’s Cultural Gumbo.

Competitors will be given a 10’ x 20’ space outside of Prather Coliseum to set up either propane burners or cookfires to prepare their gumbo. Running water will be available on the premises, but all other supplies must be brought by the head cook. All gumbo must be cooked on-site, with no commercial or pre-made roux allowed. Poultry, meat, seafood, rice and broth or stock may be prepared in advance or on-site, and canned broth is allowed. Gumbo must be heated to a boil on-site, and gumbo must be prepared in as sanitary a manner as possible. Chefs must prepare at least two gallons of gumbo for the competition. For the complete list of rules, please visit our website at nsula.edu/folklife/.

“A Buck A Cup” gumbo sales to the public for the People’s Choice category will begin at 1 p.m. Festival attendees will be invited to purchase gumbo and vote on which gumbo they most enjoyed. Chefs participating in “A Buck A Cup” must provide their own bowls, spoons and napkins.

The Gumbo Cook-Off is being held at the Natchitoches-NSU Louisiana Folklife Festival. In addition to the cook-off, this year’s festival will include the Louisiana State Fiddle Championship, three stages with live music, and many crafts and food vendors. The festival’s curated showcase of Louisiana folk musicians, food vendors and traditional crafts persons will open at 9 a.m., with live entertainment scheduled for 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. The family-oriented festival is fully wheelchair accessible. Tickets are $10 at the door for all events, or $6 for an evening pass to all events after 5 p.m. Children 12 and under are admitted free.

Support for the festival is provided by grants from the Cane River National Heritage Area, Inc., the City of Natchitoches, the Louisiana Division of the Arts Decentralized Arts Fund Program, the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, the Louisiana Office of Tourism, the Natchitoches Historic District Development Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, the Shreveport Regional Arts Council and the State of Louisiana.