Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Central BBQ's Craig Blondis on Competing at Cochon's Heritage BBQ

Posted By on Wed, Aug 28, 2013 at 11:15 AM

Craig Blondis
  • Margot McNeely
  • Craig Blondis

Cochon 555's Heritage BBQ returns to Memphis this Friday, August 30th. This year's event is being held at the Beale Street Landing and Rooftop Terrace.

Cochon 555 and its affiliated events like the Heritage BBQ champion the cause of the heritage breed pig. The Heritage BBQ, a competition involving six chef-led teams creating dishes using the entire pig, expanded this year to include stops in St. Louis and Louisville this year.

The competition, which includes local and regional chefs with fine dining pedigrees, has one representative of the casual BBQ restaurant this year — Craig Blondis of Central BBQ fame. I sat down with Craig to see what he had up his sleeve for this weekend's contest.

How did you get involved in the Cochon Heritage BBQ event?
Craig Blondis: Through Brady Lowe, the founder of [Cochon 555]. Last year, he came to the restaurant as a part of the bus tour and he loved my hot wings. This event sounded interesting and BBQ related so I thought, “Why not?”

What exactly do you do at the Heritage BBQ?
It’s a competition with six teams. Each team has to make six dishes — four meats (bone, muscle, pull, stew) and two sides (mayo and mustard) using a whole hog from Newman Farm. They have to feed 200 people. The idea is to use the whole hog and promote local farm-to-table type deals.

Do you have a team?
The restaurant has a team. Chris Taylor, one of my downtown managers, is a trained chef and used to work for Felicia Suzanne. I put him in charge, and he has a team. I’m just going to stand there and look pretty.

I thought after your recent trip to Portland for the Memphis dinner, you might be expanding your repertoire.
(Laughing) We’re simple food people. Elizabeth [Craig’s wife] made fried pies and I just cooked ribs.

What’s the game plan for Friday?
I don’t want to tip my hand too much, but Chris is planning a take on a McRib — a sandwich with pressed rib meat — and some BBQ tamales with the pulled meat.

There’s no way I’d go up against those other guys [Ryan Trimm of Sweet Grass, Travis Grimes of Husk Restaurant in Charleston, Jackson Kramer of Interim, Chad Clevenger & Nick McCormick of Alma Cocina/Tap A Gastropub in Atlanta, and Rick Farmer & Miles McMath of St. Jude’s Culinary Team]. Hopefully Chris and his team will represent us well. It’s their first time so I’m sure there will be a learning curve, but I hope they win. Their chances are just as good.

I judged last year and no one really did BBQ—it was more about using the whole hog. Diners are going to get everything across the board.

Are there any other Cochon events this weekend?
Come to the downtown restaurant on Saturday. I’m cooking a whole hog for the Man vs. BBQ Bus Tour which ends there around 5 p.m.

There will also be a pig pull, hot wings, and a rib smackdown between me, Mark Wheeler (Co-owner of Memphis BBQ Company in Southaven), and Mark Lambert (Sweet Swine O’Mine Distributing). The people on the bus decide the winner.

These events are always fun. National Bourbon Month is kicking off, so there will be lots of Four Roses bourbon and Anchor Steam is the beer sponsor this year.

The Heritage BBQ is Friday, August 30th at the Beale Street Landing and Rooftop Terrace.
Tickets: $200 for VIPs (doors open at 5pm), $125 general admission (doors open at 5:55pm).

The Man vs. BBQ Bus Tour is Saturday, August 31st. Tickets are $100.

For tickets and more information, go to

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