Most chefs will admit that bacon has long been one of their secret ingredients, and leading "culinologists" (research chefs and food technologists) are rediscovering why bacon remains the go-to ingredient to captivate the palate of the American consumer.
"There's no such thing as too much bacon, the most magical of meats," says Jenny Rosoff, president of Village Green Foods, Inc. in Irvine, Calif., where the Pork Checkoff recently hosted a Bacon 101 seminar for a joint meeting of the Pacific/Southwest Chapter of the Research Chefs Association and the Southern California Chapter of the Institute of Food Technologists. "Bacon adds flavor and texture, and it's also comfort food--and in this economy, people want as much comfort as they can afford."
During the two-hour "Pork Bellies to Bacon" presentation, Pork Checkoff staff shared bacon facts and history, processing (complete with a demonstration with a pork belly), food trends, recipes and more with more than 120 culinologists. The seminar concluded with a sample tasting of five distinct styles and flavors of bacon, from applewood-smoked bacon to maple-flavored bacon.
"People have shown an incredible appetite for all things bacon," says Paul Perfilio, national foodservice marketing manager for the Pork Checkoff, who conducted the Bacon 101 seminar. "In the last several years, trend spotters have named bacon as America's top food trend, and bacon mania continues."
Demand for bacon is growing, adds Perfilio, who notes that:
• 69 percent of all foodservice operators purchase bacon.
• The foodservice market uses more than 1.7 billion pounds of bacon each year.
• Bacon-related menu items have increased by more than 7 percent annually in the last few years, according to Technomic, a consulting and research firm serving the food industry.
Bacon makes it better
Bacon has moved beyond a breakfast staple to become the third condiment, right up there with salt and pepper, says Perfilio, who customizes Bacon 101 to his audiences' interests. Keeping the presentation informal encourages audience interaction, adds Perfilio, who notes that the West Coast culinologists were amazed by the range and flavors of bacons, including naturally-cured products and low-sodium varieties.
"I was riveted the whole time," noted one audience member. "The presentation was great, and the tasting was even better."
Bacon 101 was a hit, agrees Rosoff, a self-described "pork-o-phile" who is also interested in the Pork Checkoff's Ham 101, Sausage 101 and Pork Ribs 101 seminars. "The Pork Checkoff staff is amazing to work with. They are friendly, well prepared and knowledgeable about all things pork, and we look forward to working with them again."
For more information, contact Paul Perfilio, PPerfilio@pork.org, (850) 650-5402.