Mini-pot jambalaya contest continues charm; 12-year-old champ wants to win the big pot

Mary-Glenn Smith
Mathew and Mary Abshire compete in the mini-pot jambalaya contest Saturday.

Families gathered under the shade of trees on South Irma Boulevard in front of the Knights of Columbus Hall as youngsters competed in the mini-pot jambalaya cooking contest at the 43rd Annual Jambalaya Festival Saturday.

A festival tradition since the 1970s, the mini-pot contest is an event everyone enjoys and families can participate in together.

The Abshire siblings, Mary and Matthew fired up their jambalaya pots and cooked side-by-side with the help of their dad, T-Wayne.

Mary, 12, won first in the children’s division of the mini-pot contest, while little brother, Matthew, 9, came in third.

“It feels good to win,” Mary said. “I want to cook in the big pots and win that, too, one day.”

This was Mary’s second time to win the competition; she took home first title in 2005 when she was only 6-years-old. She finished third in last year’s mini-pot competition.

“I couldn’t be prouder of my kids,” their dad said. “I’m living my dreams through my kids,” he laughed. “It means a lot to me that they won.”

T-Wayne, a past world champion competed in Heat 2 of the World Champion Jambalaya Cooking Contest on Friday with helper and neighbor, Jay Alexis.

Jay’s daughter, Blair won the mini-pot contest in 2008 and competed again this year.

Another family pair in the competition was the Wooldridge brothers.

The brothers, Ethan, 10,  and Casey, 8, traveled 7 1/2 hours from Seadrift, Texas to cook in their first mini-pot contest.

With the help of their “paw-paw” Gary Braud of Gonzales, the brothers carefully cooked their jambalaya in hopes of taking the title of mini-pot champion back to Texas with them.

“We learned how to cook jambalaya from PawPaw,” said older brother Ethan. “We do whatever he tells us to,” younger brother Casey added.

“Mawmaw” Judy Braud knows a bit about cooking as well, she competed in Heat 8 of the World Champion Jambalaya Cooking Contest.

Though they fell short of the win, the Wooldridge brothers are planning on cooking in the contest again next year.

The mini-pot cooking contest was not limited to children, but instead was divided up into age groups.

Ages 12 and under competed in the children’s division, 13-17 the junior division and there was a men and women’s competition for ages 18 and up. There was also a category for Ascension Parish Schools students.

Proceeds from the mini-pot contest benefit the Dream Day Foundation for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Final results of the mini-pot jambalaya cooking contests are as follows:

Children’s Division: first place - Mary Abshire, second place - Cole Gaudin, third place - Matthew Abshire

Ascension Parish Schools: first place - Austin Waite, second place - Devin Touchet, third place - Alex Bourgeois

Junior Division - first place - Nicholi Rowell, second place - Brett Reine, third place - Brandon LeBourgeois

Women’s Division: first place - Sheri Gautreau, second place - Cindy Gautreau, third place - Chasity Hidalgo

Men’s Division: first place - Willie Neusetzer Sr., second place - Mike Gonzales Jr., third place - Koby Thacker