Dubbed the “Super Bowl of Swine,” the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest reigns supreme as one of the biggest barbecue bashes on the planet. To fire up the fun, the Pork Checkoff invested in key food editors who were there “On Asswinement.”
“Memphis in May is truly a testament of people’s love and passion for pork,” says Pamela Johnson, director of consumer communications for the Pork Checkoff. “This year we focused on connecting with culinary influencers to build relationships and generate pork media coverage, which helps us to ultimately reach consumers.”
Editors from Men’s Health, Better Homes and Gardens, the Chicago Tribune, Huffington Post, and other leading media outlets, along with a cartoonist from Saveur magazine, participated in Kingsford University, which is sponsored by Kingsford Charcoal with the Pork Checkoff as a partner. Class members were schooled in the fine art of barbecuing – and eating – pork ribs, thanks to expert instruction from pit master Chris Lilly, the 2011 Memphis in May Grand Champion.
“This was a wonderful experience, and I was impressed with competitive barbecue cooks’ level of finesse and attention to detail,” says Carlos Acevedo, food editor at Better Homes and Gardens (BHG).
Smoky, spicy pork commands attention
The curriculum also included a hog fabrication demonstration by David Bottagaro, the Pork Checkoff’s national foodservice marketing manager, who served up a wealth of information about various pork cuts.
“This is something that more people should witness,” says Kevin Budnik, a Saveur cartoonist/illustrator and novice barbecue cook who was impressed that pork tenderloin is as lean as a skinless chicken breast. “I feel it’s important for people to realize where their food is coming from.”
The editors’ culinary education culminated in their entry in the rib competition, which pitted them against more than 100 other teams. The editors’ “On Asswinement” team made a good showing during the event, as competitors from the “Notorious P.I.G.” to “Getting Piggy with It” showcased their skills with ribs, whole hog and pork shoulder.
“Pork was the hot topic of discussion throughout the weekend and beyond,” says Johnson, who notes that the Pork Checkoff provided recipes, fact sheets and pork for the editors’ event and competition entry.
Rekindling the thrill of the grill
More than 100,000 spectators flocked downtown to Tom Lee Park to sample the fun at Memphis in May, offering another effective way to leverage Checkoff dollars. “Through Kingsford University, we’ve built new relationships with editors and have galvanized existing relationships with other pals of pork and key influencers—who all can help us promote pork with consumers,” Johnson says.
To keep pork at the top of the class, Chris Lilly has shared a number of his favorite pork recipes with the Pork Checkoff, including Grilled Pork Parmesan, Grilled Pork Pie, and Blackberry Jalapeno Ribs.
In an upcoming article for BHG’s Grilling magazine, Acevedo will also share recipes and show readers how to build layers of flavor with pork, rubs, sauces and smoke. “At the end of the day, grilling and barbecuing are about spending time with family and friends. I want to inspire people to enjoy more pork and make these recipes their own.”