Travelers agree that there hasn’t been a better time to visit Chicago, with a record-setting 54.1 million people visiting the city in 2016. The third largest city in America serves as the cultural heart for the Midwestern US, and is known worldwide for its architecture, sports teams, restaurants, and festivals. Chicago’s unique brand of culture and entertainment captivates visitors from the moment they arrive.
Baconfest Chicago is one of the city’s premier culinary events and it's entering its ninth year. This year’s festival will take place March 31-April 1 at the UIC Forum in downtown, and event organizers expect roughly 4,500 attendees. The event is a bacon-themed blowout featuring many of the city's top chefs preparing a variety of snack-sized culinary creations and selling some unique bacon-related items. Many of Chicago’s leading brewers and bartenders will also be serving beers, mixed drinks, wines, and more. Baconfest has partnered with the Greater Chicago Food Depository to help end hunger in the Chicago area. We got the opportunity to interview Seth Zurer, Co-Founder of the event, to talk about this unforgettable bacon celebration.
RAL: Tell me a little bit about the event.
SZ: Some call it Nirvana. Some call it bacon heaven. BaconFest Chicago is where 150 of Chicago’s top chefs join for a weekend festival at the UIC Forum. We’ll have three sessions of delectable bacon-inspired cocktails, craft beer, and unlimited bite-sized bacon creations. The event is in its ninth year, and it draws 4,500 bacon lovers, primarily adults ready to take full advantage of our bacon-alia.
We’re unique in our focus on exquisite and creative gourmet bacon dishes from all across the restaurant world - including nationally known James Beard-award winners, Michelin-starred celebrity chefs, and local Chicago favorites. Tickets come in two all-inclusive flavors - general admission for $100/person and VIP for $200/person, which adds an hour of early access and unfettered bacon pleasure before the GA ticket holders arrive.
RAL: Take me through a day at the event.
SZ: Ticket holders gain access to a bacon wonderland, where the city's best chefs hand out amazing bites of food featuring bacon. Guests grab a Baconfest: Guide to Bacon playbill and walk around in a bacon lover's paradise. Luxury brands, artisan bacon-makers, and “bacontrepreneurs” display, sample, and sell a multitude of bacon products. The best mixologists and brewers hand out bacon-inspired cocktails, beers, and wines.
To celebrate special achievements in the bacon arts, we give out Golden Rasher Awards (the Oscars of the bacon world) to pro and amateur chefs as well as the winners of our bacon arts poetry, video, song, and other contests. After each session, a panel of judges also gives awards for “Most Creative Use of Bacon” and “Best Front of House Presentation.”
RAL: What does this event mean to the community?
SZ: We partner with the Greater Chicago Food Depository to help end hunger in Chicagoland. A portion of event proceeds goes to supporting the Food Depository’s programs. We run a food drive at the event where guests can bring nonperishable contributions for the Food Depository to distribute to hungry people in our community. The Food Depository also sells raffle tickets to our guests with prizes provided by our sponsors and partners. To date, Baconfest has made 1,102,111 meals available to hungry Chicagoans.
RAL: Why should people come to your event?
SZ: I think we get just as excited as our fans do when we see which restaurants sign up every year. As foodies, we love the diversity. As bacon geeks, we love the creativity. As the founders of Baconfest, we're so humbled that so many great chefs and restaurants want to celebrate the undying virtues of America's most delicious food.
For more information about Baconfest Chicago, please visit the event website.