Meet the Extra Crispy Bacon Critic
Hi, I’m the lucky S.O.B. who snagged that Bacon Critic job you probably read about. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you hate me on principle. Hell, if I were you, I’d probably hate me, too, especially if I were one of 1,500+ hopeful bacon lovers who also applied for what many have called “the best job ever.” Three months of eating and writing about bacon—and being paid for it? It doesn’t get much better than that. So, when the simmering resentment dies down, you’ll probably wonder: “Who the hell is this Bacon Critic, anyway?”
Firstly, I’m a New Orleans native, raised in the 504, a place that knows a thing or two about great cuisine, especially bacon. As soon as I could eat solid food, it was red beans and rice with smoked pork hock and andouille, Cajun boudin, roast beef po’ boys dripping with debris gravy, muffalettas piled high with cured meats, cheese and olive salad, spicy pasta with tasso, and oysters lovingly deep fried and wrapped in bacon (oysters en brochette, if you will). Well, maybe not in the crib, but soon thereafter. At least that’s how I remember it. Food memories run deep, and when your oldest food memories are born in the Crescent City, it sets you up for a life obsessed with good eats. It’s something of a birthright down here.
But I had to leave New Orleans to fully appreciate it, and I made my bones as a food writer in Brooklyn. It was in New York that I published my first book, The Shameless Carnivore, a Manifesto for Meat Lovers, which had me eating 31 different animals in the span of a month, including every organ of a cow. I went squirrel hunting in the ArkLaTex, slaughtered and butchered a steer on a family farm in the Catskills, and attended the infamous Testicle Festival in Montana, among other adventures. Two things I learned from researching my book: Once you kill an animal for personal sustenance, you’ll never again be cavalier about the meat on your table; and whatever you do, for God’s sake don’t order the bull penis. Trust me on that one.
It was full-on eat-write-photograph-repeat for the next decade, with various stints in the service industry to foot my bills. You may have seen my byline in Gourmet, Edible Brooklyn, Thrillist, Eater, Tasting Table, Time Out, and OffBeat,among other outlets. I’ve been a feature food writer and photographer for the New Orleans Advocate, restaurant critic and dining writer for Gambit, and resident Food Pornographer for the New Orleans arts and culture website NolaVie.com. I also love my gigs as a radio guest and essayist, which have included everything from “Louisiana Eats! with Poppy Tooker” and “Stirrin’ it Up with Chef John Folse & Co.” to KCRW’s “Good Food,” the CBC’s “Definitely Not the Opera,” and the BBC’s “World Have Your Say,” where not once but twice I had the opportunity to yell back-and-forth with British vegetarians for an hour. It was pretty great.
So, as we say in these parts, 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. I plan to go on a few bacon-centric trips and report back, and then in November, after three months of diligent taste testing, I’ll crown the Best Bacon in the United States. I hope that we can enjoy this ride together, for all its smoky, savory, salty, porcine wonderfulness, wherever it takes us. I owe this to you, friends, and to all the beautiful bacon that I’m about to eat over the next few months.
This is going to be one hell of a good ride.