USM grad "Jambalaya Girl" visits Hattiesburg

Kristen Preau, a Southern Miss grad, would help her dad cook his special dish at her older brother's football and baseball games as a kid, but it was in 2005 when Preau was working for the University of New Orleans when the area was struck by Katrina.

She was displaced with her family, so they found a way to raise money for the University of New Orleans community. Preau and her dad traveled to universities across the Southeast to serve jambalaya in return donations.

"You want some jambalaya?!" asked Preau, in her "Jambalaya Girl" apron and fork shaped earrings.

She recently landed a deal to sell her family's special "Cook me Somethin', Mister" recipe. She returned to Sam's Club in Hattiesburg on Friday to cook and to share her adventures in the cooking world.

"I went through a program that the NFL hosted, where I cooked and competed for a place in the MVP tailgate for the Super bowl in New Orleans," Preau said.

"We were blown away. Over 200 restaurants and caterers competed in that spot, and we won the jambalaya spot for that tailgate."

She says two things led her to succeed.

"Persistence has been what's really paid off for us, and passion for what we do."

Preau's product is now carried in over 14 states, and it is about to hit the shelves nationwide.