This week, we’ve pulled a Perspective from our May/June 2017 issue on the Mississippi Bacon Association. (Can you tell that 4th of July has us with barbecue on the brain?)
When and why was the MS Bacon Association formed?
Matthew Kajdan: The Bacon Association was formed 4 years ago. We were originally just team Parlor Market but we thought that name lacked originality. The original team was myself, Chris Mokry, David Crews and Reynolds Boykin. I believe Reynolds is who came up with the team name. This year we are sporting our biggest lineup yet. We have great chefs from all across the state.
Majure Markow: MBA was formed as a barbeque team that participates in an annual fundraiser/festival/barbeque competition in Nola that raises money for families who have children who suffer from pediatric brain cancer. We wanted to get a collection of Mississippi Chefs, small business owners, BBQ experts and folks who enjoy cooking together and having a great time.
Ryan Bell: Mississippi Bacon Association was formed about 4 years ago, although I just joined the team for last year’s Hogs for the Cause. I've always wanted to participate and do my part but didn't really have the opportunity until 2016.
There are some serious chefs in this group! What inspired each member to join? Do you have a leader?
MK: The best part of Hogs For The Cause is that they aren't giving money to research labs and major corporations; they are giving money to families who are suffering. The Cause is pediatric brain cancer and the families who are affected. They pick families who have to choose between a mortgage and doctor bills. They are helping these families keep their homes and cars and concentrate on the health of their sick child. If that doesn't inspire you, I don't know what will.
I will go ahead and let you know that I am the leader no matter what these yahoos tell you!! Just kidding, it's a joint effort from all of us. We all spearhead a different objective to make this successful.
MM: We hope folks that join see the value of representing Mississippi in a premier BBQ competition and helping to raise money for a good cause. Most of the teams that compete at Hogs are chef-centered teams from around the South as opposed to the ‘professional competition teams’ (although there are those that participate). This is a truly Nola event that was started with 1 pig and a keg of beer and has grown to one of the largest festivals in the festival capital.
RB: There are a lot of really talented chefs on this team. From Pitmasters Andy Cook and Grant Hutcheson to the "King of American Seafood" Alex Eaton and other great chefs like Matthew Kajdan, PJ Lee, Derek Emerson, David Crews and Ty Thames. There are some great non-chefs on the team as well, such as Phillip Ladner, the master distiller from Cathead. He knows his flavors just as much as anyone else on the team. I can't forget the great Chris Mokry and his ability to be heard over the crowd, or Ben Johnson and his great eye for space when getting our tent set. As for a leader, I think we are all really good at bouncing ideas off each other and offering constructive criticism. It's more of a collective than anything.
A lot of your philanthropic efforts go toward Hogs for the Cause. Can you tell us about the event? What’s your favorite thing about competing in it?
MK: The event is a two-day music/barbeque festival. The last couple of years it has been in City Park, but this will be the first year it has moved to the UNO Lakefront Arena. First there is a gala on Thursday evening that Link Group puts on. They own Cochon, Cochon Butcher, Herbsaint and Peche. The fundraising starts that evening with a silent and live auction. Then they have great bands that start playing on Friday and there are parties that go all through the night. Teams from all over the south will start selling food Friday evening. Saturday is the main day of the event; this is when the teams are pulling their hogs off of the smokers and turning in their competition boxes. There are also bands playing all day on Saturday. You will be able to walk around and sample some of the best restaurants in the south interpretation of barbeque. All of these food sales go to the cause.
My favorite part of the event is being able to see all of your friends from all over the south get together with the same common objective. It's pretty cool that they can get some of the best chefs in the country together in one place over the weekend to cook barbeque.
RB: Hogs for the Cause is a great event to raise money for families battling pediatric brain cancer. I think that's my favorite part of the event. Knowing that a weekend of fun with a great group of friends is all for a great cause.
What’s the best grill tip you can give our readers?
MK: The best grill tip I have to offer is: don't try it at home, just come out to Parlor Market and eat instead.
MM: Have a Cathead cocktail while you grill…
RB: What's my best grill tip? Hmm, I would refer you and your readers to Frank Sinatra's burger recipe (not exactly safe to print).
Is bacon the best way to eat pork, or did you just like the sound of it for your name?
MK: Bacon is one of the best ways to consume pork, but there are also plenty of other great ways to do it as well. We really just liked the way it sounded. I think that's why we settled on the name. We also like to use MBA for short.
MM: All pork is great. No one part of the pig is better than another.
RB: It just rolls off the tongue. All Pork should be respected. The pig is such a versatile animal.
PORTICO is a big fan of bacon. Is anyone allowed to join?
MK: This year was the first year we have opened up the ranks for other chefs and team members to join. We plan on bringing more members in next year. The main qualification is that you have strong ties to Mississippi. We will have a meeting and select new members at some point in the summer. We also have corporate sponsors who are able to come and hang out as well. The easiest way to hang out for the weekend is donate to Hogs For The Cause in our name.
MM: Not at this time – the team is complete, but we’ll keep you posted.
RB: We are currently full for the year, but I'm sure we may open it up in the future. We will keep everyone posted.