Chicago eats its way through four tons of bacon at ‘Baconfest’

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Ji Suk Yi and Chef Jonathan Zaragoza at Baconfest Saturday, April 7 at UIC. | Ji Suk Yi

Praise be to bacon!

Bacon lovers united this past weekend all for a good cause at the 10th Anniversary of “Baconfest Chicago” at UIC Forum.

This was one assignment I didn’t mind eating my way through because it benefits “The Greater Chicago Food Depository.” Also, I believe this good karma justifies the extra pounds gained!

Speaking of karma, I struggle with eating “the pig.” I have met several cute pot-bellied pet pigs and then there’s that saying that comes to mind about “pigs being smarter than dogs.”

But alas, my spirit is willing but my flesh weak! Pork is so darn delicious that poor pigs just don’t stand a chance!

Ji Suk Yi & Eliza Davidson at Baconfest Saturday, April 7 at UIC. | Ji Suk Yi

Ji Suk Yi & Eliza Davidson at Baconfest Saturday, April 7 at UIC. | Ji Suk Yi

So back to Baconfest! I repressed my torn emotions and went to the Saturday lunch session on an empty stomach. I munched and devoured as much bacon as I could. There was plenty. In fact, four tons of bacon, incorporated in creative and inventive menu options were served during a Friday dinner session, and a Saturday and Sunday lunch session.

Bacon wrapped hotdogs at Baconfest Saturday, April 7 at UIC. | Ji Suk Yi

Bacon wrapped hotdogs at Baconfest Saturday, April 7 at UIC. | Ji Suk Yi

As soon as I entered the building, I was surrounded by the mouth-watering aroma of bacon sizzling, and surprisingly the visual assault of bacon-wear! Who knew there was an entire bacon fashion trend? Bacon pants, bacon blazers and yes, even a bacon cape. Bacon super-hero anyone?

Later, I realized there is a bacon costume contest along with the Golden Rasher Award for each day of the festival. The handsome pewter pig trophy is awarded for the most creative use displayed by a chef in the bacon arts. In addition,there’s a so-called People’s Choice Award.

Bacon and bourbon gourmet baklava at Bacon fest Saturday, April 7 at UIC. | Ji Suk Yi

Bacon and bourbon gourmet baklava at Bacon fest Saturday, April 7 at UIC. | Ji Suk Yi

Baconfest co-founder, Seth Zurer, filled me in on some bacon trends. This year, there was a lot of cheddar, grits, polenta, fried balls and dumplings invading the menu. And back to good karma… “Including this year’s donation, we will have given more than $430,000 dollars to the food bank, which is almost 1.5 million meals,” said Zurer.

And here’s a fun fact: Baconfest originated from an idea to create a rock-n-roll puppet musical about bacon. I’m really glad it didn’t work out (for various reasons).

For me, the highlight of the event was watching, Chef Jonathan Zaragoza, of “Birrieria Zaragoza,” reverently hand over his “Sonoran Hot Dog” to event judge Doug Sohn, of legendary “Hot Doug’s” fame. This would be the equivalent of performing a free-style rap for Jay-Z. Sohn is the hot dog king/O.G.

Lucky for Zaragoza, Sohn approved. “I love this event. They don’t oversell it. Everybody takes great care with the food. All the restaurants are wonderful. it’s a great representation of the city and the suburbs,” said Sohn.

If the hot dog king of Chicago approves, then so do I! (But I’m gonna lay off the bacon and pork for at least a week.)

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