If you go
WHAT: Charleston Mardi Gras finale
WHEN: 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Charleston Convention Center, 5000 Coliseum Drive, North Charleston
COST: $10 adults; free for children.
MORE INFO: In addition to food, the event will include a children's parade, an all-ages costume contest, live music and dancing. For a complete schedule, visit www.charlestonmardigras.com.
The most authentically Louisianan addition to Gumbo Cookoff entries at this Sunday's Cajun Fest might be a bribe, jokes competitor Russ Cornette of Summerville.
"Donnie's telling everyone to cheat to win," Cornette says of Donnie Bulliard, the Krewe of Charleston captain in charge of Charleston Mardi Gras and its finale fest. "If you go to Louisiana, it's much more serious. This one, you can put a $100 bill in the pot if you want."
For Cajun food fans who aren't considering greasing the judges' palms, the cost of enjoying the Fest is significantly less: $10 buys admission to the event at the Charleston Convention Center. Children's tickets are free.
In addition to the cook-off, the festival features food vendors selling items including jambalaya, po' boys and beignets; an alligator skinning; a crawfish boil and presentations by former Charleston chef Nathan Richard, who's now the butcher at Restaurant R'evolution in New Orleans. Richard will demonstrate how to turn a heritage hog into boudin, cracklins and sausage.
Cornette, a founder of Queology, also is planning to show off his "Cajun microwave," which he describes as a "conversation piece." Similar to devices used in Cuba to produce roast pigs, the insulated box has a tight-fitting lid that expedites coal-fueled cooking. Cajun microwaves, or caja chinas, are widely available online, but Cornette's contraption was built 14 years ago by his father.
"We'll season (the pig) with garlic butter and Cajun seasoning," Cornette says. "It'll be typical barbecue flavors, but not a whole lot of smoke. It's more savory than sweet: Lot of butter. Lot of garlic."