HAUGHTON, La. – Earl Hodgkins loves a good meal, and he often invites a few hundred folks to share it with him. One week, it might be a big vat of Southern Louisiana’s finest gumbo, jambalaya or crawfish etouffee. Another week, it might be chili, fried turkey or hamburgers. Regardless the menu, Hodgkins urges his diners, “Never trust a skinny cook.” Hodgkins, vice president of lending and information technology for Carter Federal Credit Union here, enjoys cooking for crowds – so much so that he schedules himself into weekend fundraisers and other food-critical activities virtually year-round. It began innocently enough several years ago when Hodgkins volunteered his services to help raise money for his daughter’s high school softball team. “I don’t really like selling candy to raise funds. Most people don’t mind donating to a good cause, but with a meal, you’re giving them something for their money.” Since then, he has cooked numerous meals for high school and university fundraisers, raising as much as $1,900 in a single event. But it’s not all about the money. As outdoorsmen, Earl and his cooking buddy (nicknamed Skeet and Buck) donate their culinary skills to a big game hunting contest and a fishing tournament sponsored annually by their church. Both events, which cost nothing to enter, kick off and conclude with a meal – sometimes deer or duck, but usually chili, hamburgers, fried fish or jambalaya. The duo provides food for other church activities, and once they fried up 100 turkeys for church members to purchase and take home with them on Christmas Eve. A huge supporter of Louisiana State University athletics, Hodgkins’ cooking prowess has practical applications for tailgate parties on football game days. After a visiting University of Mississippi fan sampled Hodgkins’ fare one day, he offered to pick up the tickets for the next LSU/Ole Miss match-up if Hodgkins would cook the gumbo. Hodgkins even cooked for the credit union’s annual meeting one year. But. does he cook at home? “My wife works some evenings, so I do cook at home, but it’s regular stuff. You know, like meatloaf and roast.” -

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