Woodhaven Bar and Kitchen's Ultimate Bacon Bison Bite
Slideshow: A taste of Baconfest (images by Ben Collins-Sussman, Anne Petersen and Peter Tsai)

CHICAGO — The seventh annual Baconfest Chicago took place April 17-18 at The Univ. of Illinois Chicago Forum. More than 4,500 people over three sessions (Friday dinner, Saturday lunch and Saturday dinner) indulged in ample bacon-inspired cocktails, craft beer and unlimited sweet and savory bacon treats.

“People seem to love bacon more and more every year, and we are so happy to provide a forum for both foodies and bacon fans alike,” said Seth Zurer, co-founder of the event. “Seven years ago we started with only 10 restaurants and 75 guests, and now have over 170 of the best chefs in the city participating. We are honored to be a part of Chicago’s culinary scene.”

This year, each of the three sold-out sessions included more than 50 chef stations. It was estimated that 8,000 lbs. of bacon, all donated by Nueske’s, Wittenberg, Wis., was served in many varied formats.
Participating chefs in each session competed for the Golden Rasher Award, a designation celebrating special achievement in the bacon arts. On Friday night, a panel of judges awarded Most Creative Use of Bacon to Patrick Sheerin, chef/owner, Trenchermen Restaurant, Chicago, for his bacon fried rice.

Developed specifically for Baconfest, Mr. Sheerin believes there’s something magical about bacon and fried rice. He used a short-grain rice so that the starches would help hold together the ingredients, which included crispy Berkshire bacon, toasted peanuts and a secret seasoning blend. For extra kick, the fried rice was topped with house-made bacon fat hoisin sauce and egg yolk jam.

“Bacon is such an integral part of the American lexicon,” he said. “It smells great when you cook it. It’s fatty, salty, sweet and smoky. What’s not to love?”

The Most Creative Use of Bacon served at Saturday’s lunch went to Chef Takashi Yagihashi of Slurping Turtle, Chicago, for his Bacon Chiyawanmush, which combines shiitake mushrooms, ginko nuts, bacon-dashi glaze and wasabi. Chef Dan Compton of Vie, Western Springs, Ill., received this accolade for his Bacon Slim Jim & Potato Bacon Soup served at Saturday’s dinner session.

The Best Front of House Presentation award on Friday went to Chef Craig Fass of The Bad Apple, Chicago, for his dish called Gulliver’s Travels. This specialty was porchetta (fatty, moist boneless pork roast) stuffed with jagdwurst (bacon sausage) in a blanket of bacon, apple and jicama slaw on a bacon crustini.

Saturday’s lunch award was given to Chef Christine Cikowski and Chef Josh Kulp of Honey Butter Fried Chicken, Chicago. The two served Fried Chicken French Toast topped with bacon honey butter and maple bourbon syrup.

There was a tie for the award during Saturday’s dinner session. Knife & Tine, Chicago, was recognized for its BBQ Pork Belly, while Osteria Langhe, Chicago, smoked with a Bacon Cigar.

In addition to hosting a food drive and raffle at the event, Baconfest donates a portion of proceeds from ticket sales to the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Since 2009, Baconfest has donated more than $200,000 to Chicago’s food bank, which translates into more than 650,000 meals for hungry people in the area.