Last year I was the first-prize winner of the Jambalaya Cook-Off Festival here. I can’t take all the credit–it was myself and my friend Phil Ridarelli. We went to the contest the year before and thought we could do better. I’d never really made jambalaya before. Jambalaya is everything leftover in the kitchen, and you put it into a pot and make it all together. It’s a dish that comes from New Orleans. We did a practice run the night before the contest. We made a big batch and took it to this local bar that we frequent in Andersonville, Simon’s, and everyone seemed to like it and so we thought that we might have the secret ingredients that we needed. Our secret ingredients to making good jambalaya and winning the contest were two things: presentation was first–we put a crawfish and Mardi Gras beads on every bowl that we gave to the judges–and second, we were hungover when we cooked, on a lot of beer and a lot of bourbon. It’s sort of a secret mind-set that you have to get into. This year I’ve been asked to judge. I’ll be looking for a feeling of a party in my mouth. Can’t be too dry or too soupy, and when you swallow you have to feel like it’s New Year’s Eve.

–Steve Mosqueda, performer/ultrasound technician