Booyah or Booya is a food that is prepared like a stew, but on a very large scale. It takes many cooks to prepare the food, and it is usually meant to serve hundreds or even thousands of people. The name booyah is also used to describe the event surrounding the meal, and is probably a degenerated form of the name bouillabaisse, or as a mis-interpretation of the French word bouillon by a newspaper reporter (see history).
In the cooking of booyah, one makes a base or broth derived from culinary bones to which other food can be added. Beef, chicken, and pork are popular meats for booya, and vegetables such as carrots, rutabagas, celery, and potatoes are also put into the mix. A wide variety of seasonings are often used.
The preparation of booya often takes up to two days, generally cooked in specially designed booyah kettles that can hold more than 50 gallons of the stew. Generally made for charity events, some community groups and churches have their own kettles, while other groups rely on municipal kettles. Highland Park in St. Paul, Minnesota, has a shed with 5 kettles which can have a total yield of 350 gallons of booyah. The kettles have been around for several decades, but as of December 2003, there is controversy regarding the safety of the burners used to heat them.
The name Booyah likely originated in Green Bay, WI, by the booyah "pioneer" Andrew Rentmeester around 1905. In an article of the Green Bay Press-Gazette dated October 29, 1976, it reads:
Lester (Rentmeester) relates recollections of his schoolteacher father, Andrew, probably the "pioneer" of the chicken booyah supper. "At the old Finger Road School where he taught, funds were always in short supply," he recalls. "So my father hit on the idea of a community picnic to raise money for the school. He went around to parents and neighbors, gathering up beef and chickens for the traditional Belgian soup that would be the main dish at the benefit affair. And he also went down to the office of the old Green Bay Gazette, looking for publicity." The writer handling the news of the benefit picnic, so the story goes, asked what would be served. "Bouillon — we will have bouillon," came the reply, with the word pronounced properly in French. "The young reporter wrote it down as he heard it," Rentmeester relates. "It came out 'booyah' in the paper. It was booyah the first time it was served at Holy Martyrs of Gorcum Church — an affair my father also originated -- and that's what people have called it ever since."
The traditional stew is still made in Northeastern Wisconsin at church picnics and county fairs. At some of these events, Booyah-making contests occur, in which local masters of booyah-making compete to make the best tasting bowl of booyah. A local legendary booyah master is Randy Rentmeester, commonly referred to as "Handel" Every year, St. Paul Harley Davidson spends an entire day creating an award winning booya to sell and donate funds to local groups such as the Disabled Vets.
In 1995, William Shatner hosted a Booyah Cook-Off in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which over 2500 people attended.
Booyah recently has become a popular phrase in pop culture and is a signature phrase of famed sportscaster Stuart Scott of ESPN. The phrase is generally used immediately following a good play and has a similar meaning as the phrase "In Your Face!"
On Father's Day of 2008, Randy Rentmeester - booyah king of Green Bay - will be featured on Good Day Wisconsin with Angela Kelly. He will detail his culinary process and his special recipe - leaving out the secret ingredient, of course.