Baconfest, the annual bacchanalia of pork belly, will take go into its tenth year next weekend, April 6 and 7, at UIC Forum (725 West Roosevelt, Chicago). Several local chefs will be there to cook up and serve their bacon-based best.
Erik Williams of Oak Park’s Carnivore, Sieger Bayer of Forest Park’s The Heritage, Dan Pancake of Berwyn’s Autre Monde Café & Spirits, and current/former Oak Parkers Oliver Poilevey of La Sardine and Le Bouchon, and John McLean of Burger Bar compete against hundreds of other chefs, some James Beard award winners, others holding Michelin stars. All will be vying for the coveted Golden Rasher award, the Oscars of the bacon world, perhaps the country’s highest honor for pushing the limits of bacon excellence.
Williams is going traditional with a Winter BLT of braised Nueske’s bacon, tomatoes, and lettuce; Bayer will present Bacon and Red Floriani Cornmeal Dumplings featuring heritage honey-brined bacon, ramps, and aioli; Pancake is doing up a BLT Ramen, which will likely leverage the Japanese soup’s traditional pork broth; Poilevey prepares Bacon Consommé and Spring Flavors, and McLean will weigh in by serving his Belly-Stuffed Chicken Wing with candied bacon glaze.
As in just about every year since its inception, I’ll be one of the Baconfest judges, and if the past is any indication of what judging criteria will be, I’d guess that Baconfest co-founder and friend Seth Zurer will once again ask us to award the prize to the dish that we judge the most “creative.”
Baconfest also stages an annual poetry contest (subject: bacon…surprise!) and a costume competition, which in 2015 was won by Oak Park’s own, and former Wednesday Journal staffer, Alicia Plomin, who came that year, as she has every year since, as Super Bacon Lady.
In addition to Williams, Bayer, Pancake, Poilevey and McLean, chefs at Baconfest will include people like Marco Flores of Latinicity (Chori-Frita Slider: house-ground black angus & chorizo patty, manchego cheese, bacon mojo, and crispy potatoes on brioche bun); John Des Rosier of Inovasi (Darjeeling Smoked Pork Belly: cured and Darjeeling tea-smoked pork belly, chocolate, aji panca chile, and mache salad) and Johnathan Goldsmith of Spacca Napoli (Malu Miri Ripieno: Sri Lankan deep-fried stuffed-banana peppers with coconut milk reduction). There will be about 150 chefs in all, each one trying to out-do the others with unique creations that have only bacon in common.
In addition to unlimited bacon creations, there will also be vast quantities of cocktails, wine and beer. We strongly suggest you come very hungry and then take an Uber home after the event.
Aside from inspiring and showcasing the creativity of local chefs, Baconfest also does good. Since 2008, Baconfest Chicago has donated over $400,000 to the Greater Chicago Food Depository, feeding over 1.2 million meals to hungry people in our community.
Baconfest launches Friday night for dinner and serves lunch and dinner on Saturday. Tickets start at $60, plus fees, and are on sale now at https://baconfestchicago.com/ticket/.