United Way of SWLA holds Battle for the Paddle jambalaya cook-off

Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 10:02 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - The competition was cooking Thursday with 17 teams competing to have the best tasting dishes of jambalaya and pastalaya.

The winning teams are chosen by patrons, who vote after sampling each dish.

“Last year, our campaign captain came up with the idea of having a jambalaya cook off and it was a few weeks away from Saint Paddy’s Day, and we thought, what better holiday to get together and celebrate in our community, and so now we have two divisions, jambalaya and pastalaya,” said Denise Durel, President and CEO of United Way of SWLA.

All the money raised by the event benefits United Way of Southwest Louisiana’s community initiatives and programs.

“Our largest program is our VITA program, where we’re doing free income tax preparation for folks, and so our goal this year is to do 4,000 free income tax preps for the people of Southwest Louisiana,” said Durel. “So that’s really what we’re focused on right now, but the money that we raised today will not only help vita but it will help all of the other wonderful things that we do throughout the course of the year.”

And if you did not feel like eating, people were still able to come enjoy arena rock tribute band LA Roxx and a kids zone, both of which were free so families could just come out and have a good time.

“We’re representing Rain Carbon. We cooked Pastalaya and Jambalaya,” said Sabrina Hetzler. “It’s a good competition, but the whole point of it is to bring the community together and to donate to it United Way. Our jambalaya and pastalaya is definitely gonna win, because it’s the best. We have cheese in our Pastalaya, which is a new thing for me, and our jambalaya is just phenomenal.”

Winning the paddle is great, but one prize is what the teams are really fighting for.

“I would say the people’s choice award because that’s literally the community saying we have the best,” Hetzler said.