Taking taste buds to Louisiana 

Kyle Phillips / The Transcript

Susan Stanford serves customers during last year's Gumbo Cook-off and Zydeco Party. This year's Gumbo Cook-off and Zydeco Party will be from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday at The Mercury, 426 E. Main St.

Ten cooks will try their hand at making the best gumbo in Norman this weekend.

The eighth annual Gumbo Cook-off and Zydeco Party is slated for 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday at The Mercury, 426 E. Main St. The featured entries are: La Gumbo Ya Ya, Da Gumbo Man, Team Big Tomato, Danielle Rogers, Brian McNeese, Mona's Krewe, Brent Davis, Brian Keough and Ray Erwin, Rex Stanford and Susan Stanford.

"These are just community members who love to cook," event organizer Julie Soper said. "It is truly a grassroots volunteer event."

For a $20 donation, attendees get a sample of all 10 gumbos, a drink ticket, a voting ticket for the gumbo competition and live music, courtesy of the Zydeco All-Star Band.

"The Zydeco All-Stars are an amazing group of musicians who really bring the party. They are a lot of fun," Soper said. "They are one of our most steadfast sponsors."

Soper said all proceeds from the cook-off will benefit the 25th annual Norman Mardi Gras parade, which is scheduled for March 2. She said, on average, the cook-off raises about $1,000, but organizers are hoping to increase that amount this year.

"Our ultimate goal is to not only pay for the bare minimum parade expenses, but to make it bigger," she said. "We want to bring in every high school marching band in the area to participate in the parade. In order to do that, we would have to pay for the schools to bus the kids over."

Soper said organizers would like to support any nonprofit organization that wants to have a float and participate in the parade, such as Norman Food and Shelter.

"They are serving the community with their budget," she said. "They do not have it in their budget to build a float. So, we would like to be able to help them march in the parade and have them be a part of this amazing community celebration."

Soper said the event has come along way since the first cook-off was held out at The Chouse on Boyd Street, featuring only three cooks.

"It started out very small, but it has grown into an event that people look forward to every year, in and of itself," she said. "For me, the spirit of Mardi Gras is about bringing people from all walks of live together and allowing them to drink, eat, dance and celebrate together, regardless of where they come from. The gumbo cook-off embodies that spirit of inclusivity."

The event has been very competitive in the past and Soper doesn't think that will change. She said it will be judged and awards will be given for chefs' choice, parade queen's choice and voters' choice. Last years winners were: judge's choice -- Joseph Darbon with DA Gumboman Delivery, people's choice -- Michael and Ashley Hunt of Nana's Krewe, and bling award -- Midway Deli.

"It gets pretty serious," Soper said.

The event also will feature a raffle and cash bar, provided by Scratch. Raffle ticket packages include one for $5, three for $10, five for $15, and seven for $20. Cash or credit cards are accepted.

Raffle prizes are being donated by Norman businesses. Some of the participating businesses this year are Roots Salon, Stash, Lazy Circles Brewing, Rusty's Frozen Custard, Sam Noble Museum, Blondie's Estate Sales, Bigfoot Creative, Yoga Fusion Fitness, Sea Shanty and Dillard's.

If you go

• What: Zydeco All Star Band gumbo cook-off

• When: 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday

• Where: The Mercury, 426 E. Main St.

• Details: $20 at the door