The chefs were out in force last weekend as the Mexico Beach special events committee hosted the 18th annual Gumbo Cook-off Saturday, bringing thousands to Sunset Park.

The chefs were out in force last weekend as the Mexico Beach special events committee hosted the 18th annual Gumbo Cook-off Saturday, bringing thousands to Sunset Park.

Members of the public braved sun, sand and lines to sample gumbos and Brunswick stews from chefs decked out in Mardi Gras-inspired fashions.

“It was a fantastic event and the weather was perfect,” said special events committee member and gumbo cook-off chairman Sandy McInnis. “Everyone was dancing, eating and having a good time.”

Awards were bestowed to both amateur and professional cooks for best gumbo and best Brunswick stew.

In the professional gumbo category: 1st place, Sharon’s Café, Mexico Beach ($225); 2nd, Shipwreck Raw Bar, Port St. Joe ($175); 3rd, Mango Marley’s, Mexico Beach ($150).

In the amateur gumbo category: 1st place, Tiger Dawg Gumbo Kings, Atlanta, GA ($225); 2nd, Sullivan Roux, Jackson, GA ($175); 3rd, Daniel Hancock  and Camp Creek Cookers, Nashville, GA ($150).

Winners in the Brunswick stew category were: 1st place, El Go Mingo, Mexico Beach ($150); 2nd, Our Home at Beacon Hill, Port St. Joe ($125); 3rd, Biker Brew Crew, Port St. Joe ($100).

Also recognized for best team spirit was El Go Gumbo from Mexico Beach, and for best decorated serving area were the Camp Creek Cookers.

“The chefs were wonderful and they all had good team spirit,” McInnis said.

According to Mexico Beach Community Development Council director Kimberly Shoaf, the city welcomed between 1,500-2,000 guests over the course of the event, selling out of gumbos, stews, hot dogs, sandwiches and even shirts.

“The chefs participate because they have a love for Mexico Beach and enjoy friendly competition,” Shoaf said. “For them, it’s an excuse to visit the city during a great time of year when the beaches aren’t crowded. They also bring family and friends to help.”

All proceeds raised at the cook-off help fund the Special Events for Mexico Beach’s Best Blast on the Beach July Fourth fireworks celebration.

“Everyone had a great time,” Shoaf said. “It’s such a great event.”