Cornett wins jambalaya title with help from cooking friends

Wade McIntyre
Joey Cornett receives hug after learning he was named World Champion Jambalaya Cook at the 43rd Annual Jambalaya Festival in Gonzales Sunday.

On his fifth trip to the finals of the World Champion Jambalaya Cook contest Sunday, Joey Cornett won the championship trophy.

“Unbelievable,” the new champ said after his number was called. “It’s unbelievable.”

Cornett and his helper and father “Peanut” Cornett accepted the award before a huge crowd that poured onto the festival after a downpour of rain blew through town.

A few hours before, Cornett was wiping his sweaty brow and thanking his lucky stars that some fellow cooks in the finals came to his aid when the rainstorm sent “a river of water” under his iron pot.

“Members from three different teams dug a trench and drained the water away” Cornett said. “It just goes to show you the incredible camaraderie of the cooks in this cooking event.”

With the water drained, Cornett was still without fire.

“Mike Melugin (another finalist) lent me some coals,” Cornett said. “Everybody wants to win but everybody wants everybody else to do well.”

Only one former champion, Carlos Braud, was among the 12 finalists this year.

“I never thought I’d see that,” said former champ and 3-time Champ of Champs Carlos Braud. “I’ve been cooking 16 years and never seen it happen before.”

With only one champion cooking Sunday, the crowning of a champ who had never won the event before was almost a guarantee. Braud, by having won the Champs of Champs event Thursday, further raised the odds, as no Champ of Champs winner has ever won the championship in the same year.

This year eight former champions were knocked out of the contest in the first round.

“What are the odds of that?” asked Master of Ceremonies Todd Long. “It’s incredible.”