Since its humble beginnings five years ago, Baconfest Chicago has grown into an all-out phenomenon. Held at UIC Forum on April 20th, the “Bacon Nation” gathered to celebrate that ubiquitous and ever delicious food favorite. Only 75 attendees showed up at the first event in 2009; hard to believe when you look at the festival today. General admission tickets sold out in an astonishing 41 minutes, filling both the lunch and dinner sessions. 3,000 pork-loving diners were treated to creative dishes by 128 of Chicago’s best chefs. Some of the best mixologists and cocktail bars in town collaborated with liquors such as Templeton Rye and Bakon Vodka to serve up delicious, bacon-inspired beverages.
Not just a hog heaven for eaters, Baconfest is also an important fundraiser for the Greater Chicago Food Depository. $50,000 was donated by the festival, which also ran a canned food drive during the course of the event. Eckrich added to the pot by matching the donations and contributing 2.500 pounds of their Bacon Lovers Deli Meats, making a special debut at Baconfest. That resulted in over 5,000 pounds of food for the Depository.
By the end of the day, stomachs were plenty full, and awards were duly given out. Honored with the Golden Rasher for Best Front of House Presentation were Benny’s Chophouse for the lunch session and Fresco 21 for dinner. The Most Creative Use of Bacon went to the lunch session’s Lockwood for slow poached egg with bacon ragout, bacon dashi, and nori. The dinner champion, for the second year running, was Three Aces with a bacon scrapple accompanied by an Orange Julius with bacon-infused Malort.
Take a look at some of the incredible dishes on show, and keep an eye on the Baconfest Chicago website. If this year was any indication, next year’s tickets will be like bacon straight from the pan: hot and gone before you can blink.