I'm going to the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.
I've been invited by Fatback Collective, one of the many teams competing.
I was originally contacted by Drew Robinson, team member and executive chef of Jim N Nicks Barbecue, a 28-location barbecue chain. He wanted to get some whole Mangalitsa pigs to barbecue. They were in the testing phase.
They held a cmpetition/experiment in Charleston. Besides the Mangalitsa, the tried barbecuing meat from Red Wattles, Ossabaw crosses, Berkshires, etc.
Unsurprisingly, everyone thought Mangalitsa tasted much better than the alternatives. That's not a surprise; it is in keeping with other meat science experiments.
I later found out that the team also includes James Beard Award-winning chefs John Currence, Stephen Stryjewski, Sean Brock and Donald Link . They've used Mangalitsa pigs before; Donald was the one who told the Jim 'n Nick's guys to consider Mangalitsa.
In the end, they decided they'd invite me out. Hopefully they'll win and I'll get to join them on stage. They actually flying me out. I'm humbled they are willing to do this - and I get to eat their Mangalitsa barbecue for free!
I think it is great that they picked Mangalitsa pigs in their bold attempt to win. I'm not surprised they settled on our pigs, but when a bunch of smart, talented, accomplished people, doing their best to win decide that you've got what they want, that means a lot. It is a major vote of confidence for Mangalitsa pigs.
These people work so hard to win. I can't reveal the details, but basically, they take a very rigorous approach to the problem. From the outside, competition barbecue doesn't look nearly so serious.
What's neat about the barbecue contest is that the judges taste blind and each team needs to produce pretty much the same food. Meat quality really ought to matter, so I think we've got a decent chance of winning.
I really hope the Fatback Collective wins, if only because they've really put their heart into it.
This is a major milestone for the Swallow-Bellied Mangalitsa breed. E.g. in 2007, we sold the first Mangalitsa to The French Laundry (3 Michelin stars). In 2011, we've got a team of barbecue innovators and Mangalitsa fans using Mangalitsa to try to win the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Competition.