Published 12:00 am Friday, October 30, 2009



LAPLACE – For the second straight year, the man known as “The Gumbo King” took top honors in the St. John Andouille Festival’s annual gumbo cook-off.

Keith Brock, 47, of LaPlace beat out 10 other amateur chefs and took home his ninth first-place trophy in 21 years of competing in the cook-off.

“I had some really good competition this year,” said Brock. “There were cooks from Lutcher and Vacherie that really made me nervous. I guess it shows that I must be doing something right.”

Brock, a Marathon Refinery retiree, explained his winning record got its start in 1988 on his first entry, which happened to be an accident.

“I brought out some of my chicken and andouille gumbo for us to eat while my daughter competed in the Andouille Pageant, and I was encouraged to enter it,” said Brock. “I took home second place that afternoon, and I’ve been winning ever since.”

Brock, who has never cooked professionally, attributes his success to the right balance of ingredients used in his roux. He said he has made it a point to stick with loyal local area vendors like Jacob’s Andouille and Winn Dixie.

“I’ve got the recipe down to an exact science,” said Brock. “I’ve figured out the exact amount of heat and the specific time to add and mix spices and ingredients. The key, though, is using the absolute best you can get.”

In addition to his Andouille Festival championship trophy, Brock said he is waiting in limbo for the results of the Bridge City Gumbo Festival cook-off in Jefferson Parish. Brock said the festival, which was rained out earlier this month, has been rescheduled for November.

“I’m anxious to see how I do out there,” Brock said. “I’m hoping for a second first-place trophy.”

Brock said his award-winning recipe, which his family has been preparing for generations, is starting to earn a larger following in the area and that it is “starting to shape the man that I am.”

“This past Fourth of July, I cooked 60 quarts of gumbo for a celebration in Donaldsonville,” said Brock. “People were lining up all day to get in on it. I was serving steaming hot gumbo in 90-degree heat. I really don’t want to toot my own horn here, but that’s got to say something. I see it as an opportunity to show other parts of the state where andouille comes from. They don’t call LaPlace the ‘Andouille Capital of the World’ for nothing.”

Brock said this year’s first-place win may be his last for the Andouille Festival for a while. His plans next year are to enter his chicken and andouille gumbo in the New Iberia Gumbo Festival.

“I’m looking to branch out and raise the bar for myself,” Brock said. “I want to share what we have here in LaPlace with the rest of the region. I don’t want our culture to die out.”