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Restaurants, organizations fight for ‘best gumbo’ titles

The temperature was cool but the music and the gumbo were hot, and the more than 1,000 people filling the section of Crawford Street between Cherry and Adams streets ate it all up.

“It was a tremendous evening,” said Nancy Bell, executive director of the Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation, which sponsored the cook-off.

“Everything went very well. The gumbo was delicious, the teams were great,” she said, adding the foundation raised an estimated $14,000.

The ninth edition of the gumbo cook-off featured chefs and teams from local restaurants, organizations, businesses and groups who felt they had what it took to win the title of “best gumbo.”

The event also featured a special gumbo cook-off between the Board of Mayor and Aldermen and the Warren County Board of Supervisors for a trophy and bragging rights for a year. This year’s rights go to the city.

“It’s a labor of love, cooking,” city chief cook South Ward Alderman Alex Monsour said. “I cooked the same gumbo I’ve cooked for 30 years, and I don’t know their recipe, but they said we’d go at it again next year, because they didn’t want to be in second place, and I don’t blame them; I wouldn’t either.”

Monsour called the governmental battle “a friendly deal and we really did enjoy it. The city of Vicksburg is proud to have the trophy and the plaque and willing and ready to go at it again next year and expect the same outcome.”

“It was a lot of fun working with the county employees team,” District 5 Supervisor Kelle Barfield said. “We had a great time. We still believe that those folks who voted for the city just might not have any taste buds, because that county gumbo was something I wish I had a big bowl of right now.

“The spirit of the community and everybody having a great time was what it was all about. Regardless of what the official vote count was, we feel like we all won by participating,” Barfield said. “We were just so pleased the Foundation for Historic Preservation set aside that space and played along with us and made it one more element of a terrific fundraiser.”

While the county and city were dueling it out, other groups were tied up serving diners wanting to get a taste of the creation of every booth, whether it served chicken and sausage or seafood gumbo. At one point, it looked as if there was one continuous line of people waiting to be served.

The diners were happy.

Bertram and Carol Hayes-Davis of Vicksburg declared the gumbo “great.”

“We’ve never lived in a small town before,” Carol said. “This is a wonderful event with a very good turnout. It looks like they’re ready to take it to the next level.”

“I feel like I’m back home,” Bertram said.

Ashley Dunn, who was accompanied by her dog Lana, said she had hit half the booths. “It’s all good,” she said.

She looked at Lana. “People have been spilling it on the ground, and she wants some,” she said. 

At The Squealin’ Pig booth, Dusty McCain was worried about his supply of chicken and sausage gumbo, which featured a thick, hearty roux.

“We made 14 gallons of gumbo,” he said. “We’re almost out.”

McCain said the chicken and sausage for the mix were smoked and the gumbo was stirred for five hours.

At Coolio’s Roux Dawgs, people were enjoying seafood gumbo containing gifts from the sea.

“We have shrimp, crabmeat, oyster, Andouille sausage and scallops,” chef Matt Coullard said. On the back of the booth, the team listed its four first-place finishes in the seafood category.

They won No. 5 Saturday, with Riverwalk Casino taking second and Rusty’s Riverfront Grill taking third.

Other winners included:

• Non-seafood: First, Rouxlin on the River; second, Road Kill Café; third, The Squealin’ Pig.

• Best Decorated:  Rusty’s.

• Notable: TBeaux’s, Rouxlin on the River.

• People’s choice: Riverwalk Casino.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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