Join annual cook-off set for Aug. 29Published 12:02am Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Making a good batch of jambalaya is like riding a bike for Steven Dawkins — the ingredients, recipe and technique are never forgotten.
So, though Dawkins hasn’t yet made a test batch, he isn’t concerned that in eight days he will be cooking enough jambalaya to feed at least 100 people at the ninth annual United Way jambalaya cook-off fundraiser.
“After you’ve done it so many times, it’s not hard to pick it back up after a while,” said Dawkins, who will represent Delta Bank. “I might try to make some this week or over the weekend just to refresh my memory.”
Delta Bank is one of three teams new to the jambalaya cook-off this year.
Dawkins, a Vidalia native, who has spent the last 12 years living and working in Baton Rouge and Lafayette, La., says he’s slowly taken bits and pieces from friends and colleagues’ jambalaya recipes to create his own.
“Mine is more like a Cajun jambalaya not like a creole jambalaya, so it’s not tomato based,” Dawkins said. “I started out following some recipes and just kind of morphed those into mine.”
At the end of the day, Dawkins said it’s not what’s in his cooking pot that will make the day a success.
“It’s all about donating time and energy to help support the United Way,” Dawkins said. “Hopefully, we can get some people to come out and donate.”
The jambalaya cook-off is a kickoff to the 2013 United Way Community Investment Pledge Drive, a three-month fundraising campaign.
The United Way of the Greater Miss-Lou supports 11 local agencies. The goal of the United Way is to provide a central agency that individuals and businesses can support which then provides funding for a variety of worthy causes.
“We help everyone from the elderly to youth athletic teams,” business director Tammy Prince said. “We believe in supporting a little bit of all of it because this way we can reach a greater number of people.
“The satisfaction in this job comes when we help out the community in any way we can.”
The cook-off, Prince said, has become one of the organization’s staple fundraising events and a local favorite.
“We’ve watched the jambalaya cook-off grow over the years, and it’s been amazing how everyone has really taken this thing and helped it grow to what it is now,” Prince said.
“It’s just a lot of fun for everyone involved.”
This year’s theme is “college football style.” Participating teams are encouraged to choose a favorite college football team to decorate their booths.
Deciding what team to pick, however, isn’t always the easiest decision in the Miss-Lou.
“It was hard to come to a consensus for us because the LSU fans didn’t want an Ole Miss or Mississippi State tent and vice versa,” Fat Mama’s owner David Gammill said. “I think we’ll do a hodgepodge of teams.
“It’ll be a tent divided.”
Gammill’s team has participated in the cook-off previously, but took a break last year.
The time off has allowed his crew to tinker with the recipe that will be used in their batch of jambalaya this year.
“I guess you could say we’re still in beta testing on which recipe we’re going to use,” Gammill said. “We’ll start making different batches to taste test what’s going to be best.”
The cook-off offers a first, second and third place award for the jambalaya competition and a spirit award for the best decorated team booth.
Groups of guest judges will judge the jambalaya platters on overall appearance, texture of rice and overall taste.
A donation of $7 includes a jambalaya plate with salad, roll, dessert and a drink. Jambalaya sampling cups can be purchased for $1.
This year’s total goal is $150,000 — with most of that coming from company-run campaigns.
Employees of participating businesses can elect to have a specific amount deducted from every paycheck.
“We invite all the local business to bring their employees and join in on the community involvement,” Prince said. “It’s hard to beat that price for a lunch anywhere, plus this is for a great cause.”
The cook-off is from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 29, at the Natchez Convention Center.
To compete in the jambalaya cook-off, get information about a table sponsorship or for any other information, contact the United Way at 601-442-1081.