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Chefs show off jambalaya skills at cook-off

NATCHEZ — Chefs at Friday’s United Way jambalaya cook-off stood over large cast iron pots and open flames in the parking lot of the Natchez Convention Center Friday, but at least the 6 a.m. hour kept things cool.

The sixth-annual event was a fun way to kick off a United Way fundraising campaign, but cooking jambalaya for 100 to 200 people was no joke.

Eighteen cooking teams participated in the cook-off, and some arrived before sunrise to get started.

Team leader of the Carby and Carby Law Firm booth, Hyde Carby, said his team got started at 5:45 a.m. by frying five pounds of bacon in a 20-gallon Jambalya pot.

The bacon fat helped brown chicken thighs and andouille sausage.

After adding bell peppers, celery and waiting until the onions caramelized, Carby added five quarts of homemade chicken stock, which was prepared the night before.

Then went the mushrooms, parsley, seasoning and finally rice — and voila, dinner for 150 plus.

Carby said his team of friends used the recipe of teammate Katherine Callon’s grandmother, who grew up in St. Martinsville, La.

Other teams had less traditional approaches.

Representing the Carriage House, Chef Richard “Bingo” Starr served tasso and andouille jambalaya cakes with turtle gravy.

“It’s a New Orleans boy’s version of rice and gravy,” Starr said.

Judges included the mayors of Natchez and Vidalia, Natchez-Adams and Concordia Parish school district superintendents and seven others.

One of the judges, Adams County Sheriff Chuck Mayfield, said he enjoyed the event.

“Well, it was good. It was real good. It was a tough decision. There were a lot of excellent cooks out there,” Mayfield said.

In the end, Natchez Community Hospital won first place, Carby and Carby won second place and Natchez Regional Medical Center won third place, United Way Executive Director Tiffany Mascagni said.

She said the event also saw a good turn out.

“It was absolutely wonderful. We did better than last year,” she said.

Mascagni said Isle of Capri won best booth decorations and the agency spirit award went to The Natchez Senior Center.

Britton & Koontz Bank won the first people’s choice award for best booth decorations with a theme of “Natchez House of Blues.”

Local band Barefoot Tendencies, who plays on Sundays at the Under-the-Hill Saloon, played at the event for free.

Mascagni said the kick off aims to spread awareness of a three-month campaign to raise a goal of $175,000 for 14 agencies in the Miss-Lou.

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