Mike Guillot, of Port Allen, was one of hundreds, on Friday, that competed in the 25th annual ExxonMobil United Way Jambalaya Cook-off in Baton Rouge.
Guillot, who is an employee at the ExxonMobil Lubricants plant in Port Allen, said that though he has been part of a team representing the Port Allen plant in the competition for 15 years, he doesn’t enter to win a prize, he enters to help the company kick off the 2014 Capital Area United Way campaign, which raises money for the CAUW throughout the year.
For the past 25 years, ExxonMobil, in cooperation with the Capital Area United Way, has hosted a jambalaya cook-off for their employees. This year 60 teams competed, including Guillot’s one-man team.
“Typically we would have three to four people on the team,” Guillot said as he stirred his pastalaya – a dish he said he knew would not win the cook-off simply because it wasn’t a traditional jambalaya. “We’ve got multiple things going on (at the plant) … Folks are pretty busy over there. We didn’t cut back on the amount of participating that we’re doing, we’re just doing it with less people.”
Guillot said that he was left as the lone team member after others were called in to work at the Port Allen plant, but said that he was happy to be the sole Port Allen representative at the cook-off, and knew his co-workers were supporting him, in spirit, 100 percent.
“At our plant, just like our lives, we have to balance work and pleasure,” Guillot explained. “If you’re volunteering for something and work calls, you have to have those priorities. Fortunately for us, our priorities allowed us to have some representation. While it may just be a small team – myself – we’re glad we are able to participate.”
Guillot said that though the Port Allen lubricants plant is just a small part of the ExxonMobil complex, which has six sites in the Greater Baton Rouge Area, the employees at the West Baton Rouge facility are extremely active in community outreach programs.
“Twenty-five to thirty percent of our employees are active in community outreach,” he said. “Because we’re West Baton Rouge employees, over there we’re really like the community. It’s really more of a neighbor relationship.”
The jambalaya cook-off that took place last Friday was the event that ExxonMobil hosts to begin the campaign season for the Capital Area United Way. ExxonMobil is the single largest contributor to the local non-profit organization each year, donating $1.5 million last year alone.
“To see people smile, see people having a good time for a good cause, that’s a great thing,” Guillot said.
Cook-off participants fed, with their jambalaya dishes, about 3,000 ExxonMobil employees, retirees and friends, as the annual event also acts as a reunion of sorts. The company also used the event as a food drive for the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank.
Guillot’s pastalalya, as he predicted, did not win first place, but he said that he was happy that he was able to fellowship with the many other ExxonMobil employees and others.
“There’s so much competition, and there’s folks actually competing to win a prize, I’m more focused here on the pleasure of the people to put some variety out there,” he said. “By dropping these noodles in the pot, I automatically disqualify myself from the competition, but that’s okay, that’s not what this is about. The competition is fun, but kicking off our United Way programs for the year is really what this is about.”
Judges from West Baton Rouge Parish that participated by tasting the jambalayas included chef Paul Mlanenka of Cou-Yon’s in Port Allen, chef Grant Fontenot of the Jambalaya Shop in Port Allen and Aaron Williams of the West Side Journal.