Each year since 2000, the Royal Sonesta New Orleans has invited dozens of area restaurateurs to the Grand Ballroom to cook their very best gumbo. But it hasn’t been all about the gumbo. The “Got Gumbo Cook Off” has raised funds to support the United Way of Southeast Louisiana, dedicated to partnering with community leaders and corporations to improve the lives of local citizens. This year’s event envelopes the Ballroom in its scintillating scents on March 8, and attendees can expect the United Way to announce a brand new fund that will help even more residents.  (Restaurant R’evolution, Desire Oyster Bar and the hotel’s Pastry Department will all participate as well.)

The good-spirited, spicy competition introduces attendees and judges to the flavors and nuances of the New Orleans culinary tradition whose aromas have wafted through the French Quarter and beyond for generations. If you’re going to this festive event to learn the secrets of the perfect gumbo, we’re afraid you’ll be disappointed. Chefs are renowned for keeping their concoctions to themselves. But if you’re attending to help raise money for a great cause, and learn how you can support a brand-new United Way initiative, this is one of the tastiest ways to help folks in need of support.

It’s all thanks to Al Groos, General Manager of Royal Sonesta New Orleans. Lover of gumbo and champion of compassionate giving, the locally named “Godfather of Gumbo” created this now-popular event 18 years ago and has since raised tens of thousands of dollars for the United Way. “This event has proven so successful,” he said, “we’re taking things to the next level. I’m looking forward to sharing with attendees, and with this great city, how Royal Sonesta New Orleans plans to continue our giving, while the United Way shares plans to broaden theirs.”

Chefs will enter their gumbos into one of four categories: traditional, seafood, exotic, and vegetarian. And, because a hearty gumbo must be followed by a heavenly dessert, there’ll be a dessert category as well. Food critics, local celebrities, and attendees will be on hand to scrutinize each dish before crowning the winners. May the best gumbo win … may the United Way continue to enjoy huge success in their mission … and may Royal Sonesta New Orleans continue to support this incredible city.