5 Questions for the First Bacon Critic
Early this summer, new breakfast site Extra Crispy posted a job opening for a bacon critic. This person would travel the country, maybe even the world, in search of the best bacon and ultimately crown one winner at the end of a three-month tenure.
Applicants were asked to send a 600-word essay describing a significant moment they had with bacon. More than 1,000 applications poured in. And yesterday, the egg-obsessed crew announced that New Orleans-based food writer Scott Gold got the job. As Gold says in his opening piece, “This ain’t my first rodeo. But without a doubt, it’s going to be the best damn bacon rodeo in the world. I swear with every fiber of my being that I’ll do this vaunted position all the justice it deserves.”
So what defines bacon in Gold’s eyes? And what’s on his bacon-eating agenda? And what was his winning essay about? We had to find out.
Photo: Ashley Merlin Photography
Bacon critic is pretty much the dream job; how did you get the gig? What was your application essay about?
“The theme of the essay was: I’ve been to bacon heaven, and I’ve been to bacon hell . . . I was working at a restaurant in NYC called Char No. 4. They lovingly make the best bacon in the world. The problem is, if you’re working there, you can’t eat that bacon; it’s for customers only. The hell was we would work our humps off serving this wonderful, beautiful bacon that we weren’t allowed to eat. It was torture out of Greek mythology. But on a good day, some of the cooks would take pity on us, and they would give us the Christmas Biscuit: a buttermilk biscuit with bacon gravy, Sriracha and scallions. It would save your life.
The kicker of the essay was: When the chips are down and the scene is surely nigh, just remember, hope and redemption are just a bowl of bacon gravy away.”
Let’s be honest, do you have any bacon biases?
“I’ve never really liked turkey bacon—and don’t get me started on veggie bacon; that is a sin upon the world, and it should not exist. It’s terrible, something so perverse and wrong.
But bacon is rarely just awful, unless it’s burned to a crisp. Even supermarket off-the-shelf bacon can be pretty great. If you have a restaurant or artisanal producer, that’s fantastic but doesn’t mean I’m biased toward it. I treat bacon like a lot of things: Sometimes you want to dine at Per Se, and sometimes you want to eat at a diner.”
Is there such a thing as too much bacon? Is there any place it doesn’t belong or thing it doesn’t belong with?
“Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing—even bacon—believe it or not. Bacon probably doesn’t belong in a Hasidic synagogue; otherwise, I’m kind of hard-pressed, because I’ve had it in almost every way possible. I’m trying to think of foods that aren’t complementary to bacon. It’s pretty difficult; it takes almost everything to the next level.”
What sort of pieces will you be writing? Where will you be trying all of this bacon?
“The job does require travel, international travel included. There are three big feature stories, and I’ll be reporting back. I’ll be kicking off things at the BreakFestival and continuing things through the end of November when we will give the bacon crown to someone. I’ll be writing news updates, bits on bacon . . . ”
OK, let’s get to the meat of the matter. What defines bacon? What are you looking for?
“This is where my philosophy degree will come in handy. Defining bacon can be a bit difficult. It generally has to come from pork belly. You can have back bacon sliced, cured or uncured, and smoked. So there’s this culinary and philosophical question: What’s the difference between pork belly and bacon? Curing or smoking? One or the other has to take place for me.
Kids in school used to call me Goldilocks. You want something just right, where all of the elements are well-balanced and play together—salt, fat; you want some smoke. And getting the consistency right. It can't be too crispy and brittle. I want it to be quintessential bacon in the very defining essence of what that word means. It should be exactly what bacon is on its best day—the platonic ideal of bacon, if you will.”
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