Danny Robert of Sac’s Feed and Western Store took first place honors in the World Champion Cooking Contest in Gonzales.

Danny Robert of Sac’s Feed and Western Store took first place honors in the World Champion Cooking Contest in Gonzales.
Although he and his helper Kurt Waguespack have been competing for 21 years and made it to the finals 12 times, this is first time they’ve won the world championship.
“It took us seven years to make it into the finals the first time. We started off kind of slow,” he joked.
Robert was presented with the title of “World Champion,” approximately $3,000, a trophy and a championship ring provided by Layne’s Jewelry and Design. Last year’s champ “Tee” Wayne Abshire passed the Golden Paddle to Robert, as is the tradition. The Jambalaya Association presented the double-headed axe trophy to Waguespack; and, the team received the Budweiser Eagle from one of the sponsors.
What’s Robert’s secret to winning?
“Luck and just trying to cook a good jambalaya,” he said. “It’s about being consistent and paying attention to the details, especially the rice and the flavor.”
Jambalaya Association Vice President Mike Gonzales said the contest started with 104 cooks competing in the preliminaries on Friday morning.
“On Sunday morning, judges named 32 semi-finalists,” he said. “They named 16 from the first four heats, and 16 from the last four.”
On late Sunday afternoon, judges Brad Elisar, Layne Gautreau, Calvin Simon and Freddie Hurst Sr. chose 12 finalists to compete for the title.
The 12 finalists included: “Tee” Wayne Abshire and helper Jay Alexis, sponsored by Gauthier and Amedee; Tyler Billingsly and Cade Lanoux, of Tee Waynes Cajun Catering; Joey Cornett and Peanut Cornett, of Ledet’s Auto Sales; Mike Melugin and Brennan Marchand, of Hutch’s Hardware; Woody Woodward and Chase Prettelt, of Gold Place Lounge; Gary Burnett and Christy Burnett, of Wally McMakin Financials; Jeremy Theriot and Tim Theriot, of Ralph’s Pharmacy; Danny Robert and Kurt Waguespack, of Sac’s Feed and Western Store; Cody Braud and Royce Sutton, of Split Log Metal Works; Neal Madere and Darrel Cross, of Access Communication; Health Melancon and Reggie Richey, of Air-Nu of Baton Rouge, LLC; and, Ralph Delatte Jr. and Jody Fife, of G.J.’s Sheetmetal.
A couple of the finalists included father-son teams such as Jeremy with his dad and helper Tim Theriot.
“I was tickled he picked me,” said the elder Theriot. “He could have picked anyone to cook with, I felt privileged that he picked me. It meant a lot to me.”
Theriot said the two have been cooking in the contest for the past five years.
“We hunt together, we fish together and now we cook together,” he said. “He has two little girls and he said when the oldest gets big enough to cook, I’m fired. His oldest is 2 and a-half. Last year she wore a shirt to the festival that said, ‘Daddy, shoot your helper.’”
Mike Melugin and Brennan Marchand, his helper, cousin and best friend, said they were carrying on the legend of their late grandfather Dalton Marchand.
Melguin wore a medal around his neck that belonged Marchand, a former king of the Jambalaya Festival. He wore it to honor their grandfather. In addition, Melguin’s other grandfather recently died, so he wanted to honor him as well during the competition.
“My grandfather Pat Melugin passed away six months ago,” he said. “We’ve had divine help to make it in the competition this far.”
For the past five years, Woody Woodward, with his helper Chase Prettelt, have been going for the trifecta - trying to win the jambalaya world championship title.
“We won the Swamp Pot cooking competition, in 2010, and the Boucherie, in 2003,” he said. “This is the only title we haven’t won.”
Another Boucherie champion, Cody Braud, said this year’s competition was one of the toughest he and Royce Sutton have ever faced.
“This heat is the hardest one to compete in because everyone is so good here,” he said.
Following the judging, the jambalaya was sold to the crowd gathered for the events entertainment and activities.
Super-fan Nichole Jacks, a firefighter with Industrial Emergency Services, said she’s been coming to the Jambalaya Festival her whole life.
“Family, friends, we’ve always done this,” she said, during the first night of the festival at the Champ of Champs competition. “You can’t NOT come to this. It’s tradition.”