Photo: Portal and Friends, Flickr
The event, sponsored by Hormel and Le Creuset and organized by Matt Timms, saw 22 contestants go pork belly to pork belly for judges' prizes and/or people's choice awards, winning Le Creuset griddle pans and either a year's supply or six-months' supply of Hormel bacon. Some dishes were intensive, like Taco Town's award-winning crack bacon tacos (blueberry-maple glazed bacon wrapped with made-to-order bacon-fat, queso fresco and blueberry habanero salsa).
Of course, food competitions are nothing new and they're growing in popularity. In New York City, much of this is due to Timms, who for six years has held culinary contests in Brooklyn. Capitalizing on the Takedown series' popularity, Timms has taken it on the road. South by Southwest was the second stop (the first was in Boston with the Lamb Takedown).
According to Timms, it all started with chili. "I fell in love with chili and started throwing parties at my place, then at a local bar. A few years went by, and I'm filling rock clubs! It was all just a happy accident. I knew people have crazed opinions about chili. Maybe they'd have crazed opinions about salsa, fondue or mac and cheese. Turns out, they do. My Takedowns are about any food, any food group, in any city." Hence, the Austin Bacon Takedown, which drew a crowd of 250 people primed for bacon treats. Children ran around sneaking extra samples, attendees eventually bowled over with bacon overdoses and competitors, in typical Austin style, graciously passed along samples to one another, served with a side of smack talk.
Entries ran the porcine gamut -- from the predictable (bacon explosion) to the liquid (bacon vodka). However, winners had to be selected. People's choice first prize went to Hilah Johnson for her bacon chocolate strips; second prize went to Dustin Bozarth of Taco Town; and third went to Josh White for his avocado salad on rye bread. Those who received plaudits from the judges, Addie Broyles, food writer and blogger for the Austin American-Statesman, and Emily Fleschaker, multimedia editor at Bon Appétit, include the aforementioned Taco Town entry, the bourbon-bacon pecan pie from Vanessa and Lisa Blackwell and bacon jam shortbread cookies (cocoa nib, smoked salt, coffee shortbread dipped in chocolate and topped with bacon jam) from Amanda Joyner of Retro Bizzaro, a local pastry and candy purveyor.
Timms acknowledges the popularity of food competitions and how they've helped spread the Takedown word. "There's more and more food events out there now. And the Food Network -- and increasingly every other network! -- have food shows. National interest is blowing up now like never before! I got started doing this at a lucky time, and had a pretty good foothold while other events starting coming out that may have more money and stuff behind them."
What's next for Timms and his series of cook-offs? "I've got a whole vegetarian series that will be super dope." However, next on the tour that includes San Francisco, Chicago, and Minneapolis is the Houston Bacon Takedown. The details of which will be announced on his Web site, The Takedown.