Big Boys // Can Cook

by Ana Pizzolio, Features Editor

THE BIG BOY’S MAIN STREET COOK-OFF unites the best of South Louisiana’s culture: the flavorful dishes of cajun cuisine prepared by locals with fresh ingredients.

Over 45 teams gathered on historic downtown Thibodaux on November 11, to prepare traditional dishes such as jambalaya, gumbo, etouffee and much more.

“This is actually one of the largest [cook-offs] we’ve ever had. We have 42 dishes total, which is phenomenal,” Chef Randy Barrios, judge and co-coordinator of the Big Boy’s Cook-Off, says.

What makes it different from other cooking competitions is that the event represents the greatest of Louisiana’s tradition: the cooking on the Big Boy’s Cook-Off are primarily made by groups of local men.

The event is the official kick off for the Thibodauxville Fall Festival and happens on night of the second Friday of november every year.

As a culinary showcase of Louisiana fare, the festival’s main goal is to both promote and preserve Southern culture – especially the tradition of preparing dishes of the flavorful Louisiana’s cuisine.

“We have a great set of judges that are going to be here, in a separate judging room. The judges are broken down in four different categories this year,” Barrios says.

Participants compete for the top prizes in the gumbo/soup, jambalaya/pastalaya, sauce piquante/etoufee and variety categories. The top three of each category are chosen by a panel made of five Southern chefs and the public votes to choose the winner of the People’s Choice Award.

This year the first place winners of each category were Alex’s Lawn Services with chicken and sausage file gumbo, Lafourche Parish Clerk of Court’s Office with pastalaya, First American Bank with chicken sauce piquante and Advance Physical Therapy with oyster eggrolls consecutively. The People’s Choice Award went to Better than Michael with pork routee over smoked gouda grits.

Tents lining up the street lead to a music stage, in which local musicians perform many different genres. This year’s featured musicians Nonc Nu and da Wild Matous, also participated in the cook off. The band showcases a unique mix of zydeco, rock and country with lyrics in both English and Cajun French.

Nonc Nu and da Wild Matous group got second place with their gumbalaya egg rolls.

“This is our first year cooking gumbalaya egg rolls. We cook a gumbo, put rice in it like a jambalaya, then we roll it into an eggroll and fry it,” Cody Guidry says.

“And then we put a special potato salad sauce on it,” adds Michael Collins.

Charbroiled oysters, shrimp & grits, crawfish boil chowder, pork sauce piquante and every other serving from all the cook-off participants are included in the $5 admission fee and all the money raised in the event is donated to benefit downtown Thibodaux.

The cook-off, which is usually composed by one amateur division, also added a new Restaurant and Chef division this year.

The event is named after its founder, the late Norm “Big Boy” Swanner. Swanner was Nicholls State University supporter, former city councilman and owner of the Thibodaux-based restaurant Bubba’s II.

“It’s just a great evening and a fun time. There is nothing like South Louisiana food and music,” Barrios says.