It's finally here! It's been said that variety is the spice of life. Well, if that's true, what's better than a variety of ingredients and actual spices all blending together to make that perfect bite?
My favorite day of the year has finally arrived and it's time to break out the antacids and head on down to the Keg and Barrel for their annual Chili and Gumbo Cookoff.
This Saturday (Feb. 1), the Keg will be hosting their 10th Annual Chili / Gumbo Cookoff and it's always one of their busiest days of the year.
I've been attending this event in Hattiesburg for many years and it is such a joyful day of food and fellowship.
If you're not familiar with how this particular competition works, the chili competition is broken into two divisions: traditional and non-traditional.
Rules state that chili can have as many or as few ingredients as needed, but they specify that one of the ingredients must be craft beer. The amount of beer that is used in the chili is strictly up to the competitor. All food must be cooked on site, with exception to rouxs in gumbos.
The event this year will also include a wild card category that will consist of anything made on site and will be judged exclusively by People's Choice voters.
In years past, many competitors would make something extra to really entice people's votes.
I've seen chargrilled oysters, boudin balls, crab claws, and all types of things that will keep people coming back for more.
The competition can really heat up as well with some notable chefs showing up to take home the hardware.
Chef Josh Casper, of the Depot Kitchen in downtown, is no stranger to the chili cookoff and took home first place in the non-traditional category for his Korean Bulgogi Beef Chili back in 2017.
Last year, Chef Tom Ramsey of team Chop It Like It's Hot, along with his son and daughter-in-law, took home first place in non-traditional chili with their Chili Verde.
The gumbos that have been in the competition are some of the best I've ever tasted. I've got a few friends who are originally from Louisiana that have competed numerous times and they always bring their A game.
Another of the amazing things about the competition is the actual trophies that the winners take home. These are not some run of the mill trophy shop trophies.
These are exquisite works of art made by non other than local artist Erik Eaves of Mumbling Brothers. These trophies are all one of a kind and are highly coveted.
Trophies are awarded to first, second and third place in each category as well as People’s Choice. Return champions and trophy winners are sure to bring their trophies back each year to show them off at their booth.
But what's more to love on a day in the backyard of the Keg and Barrel than some great live music?
This year one of my favorite bands, Royal Horses, is slated to play the event.
What beats sampling all types of chili and gumbos and getting to talk with your friends about whose stands out all while listening to some great music?
Nothing. I hope to see you there.
The event opens to the public at 11 a.m. and tickets will be available at the gate. Tickets are $20 and include one beer or $30 and include one beer and an event T-shirt.
Jamie Massengale is a self-proclaimed food connoisseur who enjoys trying new things. He is a part of the Food With Friends, a group of friends that dine at local restaurants and write articles for Signature Magazine.