Well, my friends. We did it. For the seventh time, Baconfest Chicago happened on Friday April 17 and Saturday April 18, 2015. Our restaurant roster swelled to 170 talented and enthusiastic chefs. 4,500 ticketed bacon-lovers from Chicago and across the country streamed into the UIC Forum over three sessions. Baconfest 2015 was a spectacular success … if we do say so ourselves.
Bacon Nation came together to enjoy bacon in every imaginable form — and some that were previously unimaginable. A cured meat sculpture of Navy Pier anybody? The creativity and deliciousness at the event blows our minds every single year. Even more important than the food everyone enjoyed? The $75,000 check we at Baconfest Chicago were thrilled to present to the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
We’ll continue to add more about Baconfest Chicago 2015 to this site in the coming days, but for now we wanted to get a brief recap out and get this year’s winners the recognition they deserve. Here our 2015 event photos.
video by Peter Tsai
Each of the three sold out Baconfest 2015 sessions started with a Cooking Channel VIP Hour followed by a three-hour General Admission period. Most of the more than 170 participating restaurants made use of nearly four tons of bacon from Nueske’s Applewood Smoked Meats to make a truly astonishing array of bacon treats for the 4,500 ticketed guests.
There was braised bacon, fried bacon, roasted bacon, glazed bacon, bacon confit, sugar-cured bacon, maple-cured bacon, bourbon-cured bacon, candied bacon, bacon dust, bacon powder, bacon pasta, bacon fried rice, various bacon sauces, bacon popcorn, bacon burgers, bacon hot dogs and sausages, bacon gravy, bacon meatballs, bacon waffles, bacon French toast, bacon pastrami, bacon mousse, bacon tacos, bacon chili, bacon rangoon, bacon salami, bacon jam, bacon falafel, bacon bread, bacon tamales, bacon soup, bacon meatloaf, bacon peanut butter and bacon jelly, and much more!
Desserts were also well-represented at Baconfest 2015. Among others, there was bacon caramel, chocolate bacon, bacon cookies, bacon brownies, bacon baklava, bacon ice cream and milkshakes, bacon smoothies, bacon bread pudding, bacon donuts, bacon macaroons and bacon macarons, and bacon pop rocks in a variety of contexts.
Thanks to returning sponsor Wirtz Craft Beer & Spirits and a host of beverage sponsors, as well as some enterprising restaurants that offered bacon drinks with their bacon dishes, liquid refreshment was available in abundance at Baconfest. Well over a dozen spirits, seven breweries, wine, and iced coffee available to attendees. And water! There were pallets and pallets of refreshing Italian spring water, thanks to our sponsor Smeraldina.
Baconfest would not be possible without the help of our 170+ volunteers and staffers who do everything from scanning tickets to managing lines to standing next to our trash separating stations to make sure that all of the plates, forks, cups and napkins used at Baconfest end up in compost bins instead of landfill.
Baconfest’s longtime commitment to the Greater Food Depository of Chicago continued this year. We were honored to once again donate $75,000 to the GCFD this year – our second year donating at this level. Baconfest 2015 guests brought non-perishable food donations to the event totaling 1,768 lbs of food. The Food Bank sold raffle tickets for guests to win prizes donated by our sponsors - those purchases amounted to $9,031 in additional support.
Counted together with previous years’ cash donations, Baconfest has raised over $300,000 for the GCFD to distribute food to Chicagoans in need. Combined with the cumulative food donated over the years, the total number of meals distributed by the GCFD as a result of Baconfest’s support is 924,374. Nearly 1,000,000 meals.
We cannot thank our generous restaurants, partners, and guests enough for making this donation possible.
Everyone who attends Baconfest is a winner but only a handful get to go home with awards. Here are this year’s winners:
Nueske’s Applewood Meats Amateur Bacon Cookoff
Five finalists vied for top amateur honors in the Nueske’s cook off. A panel of judges tasted all five and selected Amy Wozniak’s Bacon Scallion Pancakes to receive the incredible prize: a year’s supply of Nueske’s bacon.
The other finalists also made great dishes and received special prices from Nueske’s as well. They were: Rebecca Duxler (Bacano Italiano), Andrea Naseef (Double Dark Chocolate Chip Bourbon Bacon Cookies) Hipolito Sanchez (Smoked Duck and Honey Bacon Pie with Bacon Crust), and Diane Tesmer (Grand Mariner BACON Jam).
Best Bacon Poem
Out of more than a dozen non-haiku entries, our panel of literary judges had to, for the first time ever, pick two winners: Kiely Dolce read her poem Bakin’ Memories to the crowd during the Friday Dinner session.
Sean Cooper belted a rollicking rendition of Porkalujah, an homage to Leonard Cohen, to Saturday night’s attendees, many of whom couldn’t resist joining in the chorus.
video by Peter Tsai
The Restaurant Golden Rashers!
Every year, Baconfest awards prestigious Golden Rashers at each session. These Oscars™ of the Bacon World, arguably more highly sought after than Michelin stars and James Bears Awards combined, celebrate special achievement in the Bacon Arts.
Best Front of House Presentation
At each shift, a handful of design-oriented judges surreptitiously evaluate each restaurant’s presentation. Pretty plates of food are not enough to win these awards. Here are the winners for each shift of the Golden Rasher for Best Front of House Presentation
Knife & Tine
Most Creative Use of Bacon
Trenchermen – Patrick Sheerin (Chef Sheerin is a 7-year Baconfest Chicago veteran and 2010 Golden Rasher Winner)
Bacon “Fried Rice”, Bacon Fat Hoisin, Bacon XO & Peanuts – cherrywood bacon, forbidden black rice, berkshire bacon, house made bacon fat hoisin sauce, bacon XO, toasted peanuts, charred scallions, lime, ginger, garlic, chiles, LOVE, LOTS OF LOVE, cilantro, egg
Ara-on Restaurant – Trevor Hoyte
Shrimp Ravioli – pork consommé, morel mushroom, smoked bacon
Big Jones – Paul Fehribach
Bacon Praline Bread Pudding – bacon and rum bread pudding with goat milk cajeta, bacon, benne, bacon fat whipped cream
Fork – Tim Cottini
The Bacon Bomb – a medjool date stuffed with bacon sausage and wrapped in bacon, with a caramelized apple & bacon puree!
Red Door – Troy Graves
Bacon and Wild Boar Arepa
Tanta – Jesus Delgado
Chicharron Glazed Bocado
Woodhaven Bar and Kitchen – Zach Prince
The Ultimate Bacon Bison Bite – cherrywood bacon and goat cheese infused bison with pepperoni aioli and jalapeño, wrapped in smoked bacon and drizzled with a blueberry buffalo bacon dipping sauce
Winner: Slurping Turtle – Takashi Yagihashi
Bacon Chiyawanmushi – shiitake mushrooms, gingko nuts, bacon-dashi glaze and wasabi
David Burke’s Primehouse – Jove Hubbard
Bacon Tarte Flambe – Vidalia-braised applewood bacon, ramp soubise, black pepper hollandaise, crispy leeks, puff pastry
Firefly Grill – Niall D. Campbell II
Cauliflower Bacon Panna Cotta – with crispy bacon fat sage
Flo & Santos – Mark Rimkus
Bacon Whiskey River Lasagna – bacon barrel-aged whiskey served with a bacon five-way lasagna (bacon pasta, bacon ricotta, bacon bits, bacon sauce and bacon)
Stout Barrel House & Galley - Michael Matthews
Bourbon Braised Bacon Biscuit Slider – Buttermilk bacon cheddar jalapeño biscuit with bourbon braised bacon, pickled onion & zucchini, with a country style bacon gravy, topped with candied bacon & cayenne pepper
Winner: Vie, Dan Compton (Vie is a 7-year Baconfest participant and 2011 Golden Rasher Winner)
Bacon Slim Jim, Fully Loaded Potato Bacon Soup
Bang Bang Pie Shop – Patrick Cloud
Bacon Studded BLT Biscuit – bacon potato chip and red ham gravy
e+o Food and Drink – Rodelio Aglibot
Bacon and Albacore Poke – Hawaiian style bacon and albacore poke laced with inamona, avocado, ginger, chili water, sesame and shoyu
freestyle food + drink – Ariel Bagadiong
Pepper and Applewood Smoked Bacon Waffles – with Sriracha butter, chicken-fried bacon, bacon bourbon gravy, sour cream, and green onion
Osteria Langhe – Cameron Grant
Bob Nueske Commitment to Bacon Award
Bob Nueske, a legend in the world of bacon and longtime supporter of Baconfest, passed away far too soon. Those of us who had the chance to get to know him were better for it. In his honor, we created the Bob Nueske Commitment to Bacon Award given to those chefs and restaurants who have exhibited at Baconfest for seven years.
The inaugural Commitment to Bacon awards went to:
- Chef Patrick Sheerin
- Chef Troy Graves
- Chef Nathan Sears
- The Signature Room on the 95th
- Vie Restaurant
- David Burke’s Primehouse
In the meantime, please take to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to share your recaps of the event. We LOVE reading your stories of the bacon-ocity.
Many thanks to the indefatigable Dan Zemans (@zemanation) for drafting this recap!
All photos in this post are by the official Baconfest event photographers: Anne Petersen, Peter Tsai and Ben Collins-Sussman.