Meatopia, the World-Famous Meat Festival's Backstory

Staff Writer
We spoke to Hill Country Barbecue executive chef Charles Grund Jr. about the history of the carnivorous celebration, Meatopia
Hill Country Barbecue offered a spicy chili short rib, topped with a tangy jalapeño and habanero chimichurri.

Kristen Hom

Hill Country Barbecue offered a spicy chili short rib, topped with a tangy jalapeño and habanero chimichurri.

Meatopia, with events at both the New York City Wine & Food and South Beach Wine & Food festivals, is widely regarded as one of the most carnivorous feasts in the world, where chefs and pitmasters cook entire pigs, cows, and goats over open fires. But do you know where Meatopia got its start? We spoke to Charles Grund Jr., executive chef and pitmaster of Hill Country Barbecue, at the New York City event at Pier 92 on West 55th Street. Hill Country Barbecue participates in the Meatopia feasts every year in New York and at South Beach.

Meatopia began modestly in 2004 as a birthday party for Josh Ozersky, the late James Beard award-winning food writer.

“Before Meatopia was the giant feast it is today, it was just Josh’s birthday with two or three restaurants,” Grund told us. “All he did was ask for us to come out and celebrate. It was just meat and booze, and look at it now.”

For Meatopia’s 11th annual celebration in New York City, smoke from dozens of grills filled the air as a crowd of guests mingled and munched on creative pork and beef dishes from 30 purveyors. Meatopia founder Josh Ozersky died earlier this year after a seizure, and he was remembered fondly by both guests and chefs at the event.

“Ozersky was a brilliant writer who was very knowledgeable about food and New York City,” Grund said. “I don’t think people gave him enough credit for his brilliance in writing. He was a great guy.”

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