The secret to a great gumbo is how it’s seasoned, White Castle resident Randy Landry said.

The secret to a great gumbo cookoff requires a few more ingredients, including 96 competing cooking teams, great weather and maybe a few celebrity guests, Greater Iberia Chamber of Commerce CEO Janet Faulk-Gonzales said.

This weekend marks the 23rd annual World Championship Gumbo Cook-Off, and it promises to be the biggest one yet, Gonzales said.

Teams from throughout the country and even one crew from Japan will put their rouxs to the test against several local competitors and newcomers like Landry and his fellow White Castle Fire Department cooking teammates.

On Tuesday night participants met inside the Sliman Theater to review cookoff and regulations for the event.

“This is something we’ve been wanting to do for a long time” Landry said. “We decided this was the year we were finally going to do it.”

The theme for this year’s cookoff theme is “Cook ’Em,” which pays homage to the now popular “Choot ’Em!” tagline said by Troy Landry, of the cable television series “Swamp People.”

Come early Saturday and you may get a chance to meet Landry, along with son Jacob, who will make guest appearances from 2 to 6 p.m. at Bouligny Plaza during Saturday’s Cajun Food Fest and Shopping Extravaganza. If you want to meet the father-and-son alligator hunters, Gonzales said, get there as early as possible because they are sure to draw a crowd.

The Gumbo Cook-Off, which started as a modest fundraiser for the GICC, has attracted some major media attention and this year will be visited by Candace Brooks of Anderson Cooper’s daytime cable television show “Anderson Live” and Yahoo!’s food and travel series “Blue Ribbon Hunter.” The cookoff also was featured in the October issue of Food Network Magazine.

Exploring food has become a popular trend on national cable television shows and other media, Gonzales said, and food is what South Louisiana knows best.

“The food industry is really expanding,” Gonzales said.

“It really has a whole language of its own. And South Louisiana is very provocative to people — so here we have both. That’s part of the attraction of this event.”

Ninety-six competitors is the highest number of participating teams in the cookoff’s 23 years in existence, she said.

Festivities will kick off Friday evening with live music by band 5th Avenue at 7 p.m. as food booths get set up for the weekend.

From 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, “anything but gumbo” from oysters and jambalaya to alligator and bread pudding will be served up by more than 50 food vendors.

Live music will begin at 11:30 a.m. by Joel Martin Project followed by Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band and then Chris Ardoin.

Registration is still open for that morning’s On Tap 5K Roux Run, which will begin at 8 a.m.

And on Sunday at 11 a.m. get ready to sample more than 100 gumbos in seafood, chicken and sausage and mélange categories.

Just before 10 a.m., Geno Delafose and French Rockin’ Boogie will take the stage followed by Wayne Toups at 1:30 p.m. This year’s gumbo champs will be announced at 3:30 p.m.

“The weather is looking good,” Gonzales said. “We’ve got a lot of lagniappe with this year’s event. We think it’s going to be the best one ever.”

"The weather is looking good. We’ve got a lot of lagniappe with this year’s event. We think it’s going to be the best one ever."

Want to be a part of this year’s event? There’s still time to volunteer by calling the GICC at 364-1836.

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