Woman wins male-dominated Sorrento Cracklin contest

Wade McIntyre
Kristen Braud celebrates after hearing that she was named 2008 Cracklin Champion at the Boucherie Festival in Sorrento Sunday night. Braud is the first woman to ever win the contest

SORRENTO - After years of competing, including the past two years when she was runner-up, Kristen Braud crashed through the cracklin barrier.

Braud was named the Boucherie Cracklin Champion Sunday before a wildly cheering crowd at the Civic Center.

She becomes the first woman ever to win this cooking contest long considered the domain of men only.

Braud said she could not begin to explain how excited she was, and how much the cracklin crown meant to her.

“I did what I do,” she said of her championship pot of cracklins. “They (the judges) either like it, or not.”

This year, the judges flat out loved her pot.

Master of Ceremonies Todd Long said Braud won by the “biggest margin” by far of any cracklin champ.

Jambalaya cook Ralph Delatte, an unsuccessful candidate for the Gonzales city council in the recent primary contest, captured the Boucherie Festival Jambalaya Cooking Contest.

Cradling his 3-year-old son, Cort, in his arms and holding the 2008 championship trophy, Delatte said, “Right now, this is better than a council seat.”

When asked to describe the victory feeling, Delatte, who has cooked competitively since 2000, and made the finals and semi-finals of both the Boucherie and Jambalaya replied, “It’s unbelievable.”

The award presentations Sunday night capped a 3-day celebration in Sorrento, including the Saturday parade with Fern Barnett as Grand Marshal, and a smokin’ lineup of swamp pop dance bands.

Two-time cracklin’ champ Eric Bonneval won the Champ of Champs cracklin contest Friday.

Bonneval ran up to Braud when she was named this year’s champ to offer congratulations.

“I’ve been saying she would lay the hammer down, and she did,” Bonneval shouted over the noise and mayhem surrounding the new champion. “I’m still one up on her,” he said, in reference to his two championship trophies.

Braud’s father-in-law Carlos Braud served as her helper, and the Jambalaya Festival Champion Cook was visibly moved seeing her bask in the limelight Sunday.

“Seeing this is as good as winning the World Championship,” he said, comparing Braud’s victory to the moment when he won his Jambalaya Championship. “I’m just so excited for her. It couldn’t be any better.”

In addition to her trophy, Kristen Braud won $900 for her victory.

Braud said she was well aware most women traditionally do not get involved in cooking cracklins and Jambalaya.

“They think its just for men,” she said, “but I proved that it’s not.”

She said the key to her cracklin cooking technique is keeping the temperature right.

“With her two runner-ups and the win this year, it means nobody has been cooking cracklins that good for the last three years,” Long said.

Terry LeBlanc, the only three-time cracklin’ champion in the history of the competition was runner up this year. On the jambalaya side, Woody Woodward was runner-up.

The festival was held this year with just two weeks preparation, because no one knew when, or if, FEMA would vacate its occupation of the civic center after the hurricanes.

“It happened to us in 2005 with federal agencies in the building after Katrina,” Long said. “We were unable to have the festival that year.”

The Lions Club of Sorrento puts the event on, with proceeds from profits generated by sales of cracklins’ and jambalaya cooked by contestants and other activities at the event going to the Lions Eye Foundation and the Lions Crippled Children’s camp. No admission is charged to those attending the festival.

Sponsors this year were Gerry Lane Enterpises, Cox Communication and Mockler Beverage Budweiser.

Holding his son, Cort, Ralph Delatte, reacts to being named Jambalaya Cooking Champion at the Sorrento Bourcherie Festival.