Gumbo at Royal New Orleans’ Got Gumbo Cook Off

Fourteen years ago, Al Groos, President and General Manager of the Royal Sonesta New Orleans, had a vision that gumbo could help cure the ills of New Orleans. So he founded the Got Gumbo Cook Off, a fundraiser to support the outreach efforts of the United Way of Southeast Louisiana, which works to improve lives across seven Louisiana parishes by partnering with community leaders and corporations.

Since then, Mr. Groos has hosted an annual evening of gumbo prepping, simmering, and tasting in the Grand Ballroom of his French Quarter hotel. Dozens of area restaurants enter their secret gumbo recipes to stand up to the scrutiny of some of New Orleans’ most discriminating palates. But it’s not only the cooks and judges who attended the spicy affair. This is New Orleans, after all. Where there’s a Gumbo Cook Off, there’s a crowd. On this evening, more than 400 showed up eager to wield their spoons.

Four gumbo categories were on the tally sheets: Traditional, Seafood, Exotic and Vegetarian. Among the judges were local food critics and celebrities. There were also three Peoples Choice categories for the general public to vote on: Best Gumbo, Best Décor and Best Dessert. Alas, Royal Sonesta’s renowned R’Evolution Restaurant fell short of the winner’s circle this year, though our proud Chef Eric Baucom represented the home team admirably! Top prizes went to 5 Fifty 5 Restaurant (Traditional), Oceana Grill (Seafood), Bourbon House (Exotic) and Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse (Vegetarian). However, Royal Sonesta’s very own Desire Seafood & Oyster Bar won Peoples Choice for Best Décor.

About $10,000 was raised from the evening’s events. Said United Way’s President and CEO Michael Williamson, “This year, our focus is on advancing work and educational programs among those we serve, supporting health-related initiatives and targeting groups that promote financial stability of the many in need that benefit from United Way support.”

“We’re so happy to support the United Way,” said Mr. Groos. “This is a fun event that brings the people of New Orleans together to celebrate one of the city’s great culinary traditions while contributing to a very worthy cause. The Royal Sonesta New Orleans could not be prouder to host the evening’s events.”