All too often, bacon is relegated to the side of the plate—or worse, ground to bits and used as nothing more than a garnish. Not so at BaconLand. The festival food concept from Superfly puts bacon at the center of the plate, or festival-friendly paper serving vehicle, as it were. At Superfly music festivals Bonnaroo and Outside Lands, festival goers who stop by BaconLand can chow down on bacon with a side of bacon topped with bacon. We talked to co-founder Tiffany Dorman about the best way to serve bacon to drunk people and what they have planned for next summer in BaconLand.
Extra Crispy: What is BaconLand?
Tiffany Dorman: Baconland is a concept that I developed with Kerry Black from Superfly that focuses entirely on bacon as a product in a festival setting. We wanted to reimagine what was available to people when they ate food at a festival. We love, love, love bacon, and I think Kerry probably wanted to do it because he wanted to taste bacon—a lot of bacon—but we wanted to come up with new formats and ways for people to eat it, which is where the bacon flight comes from.
Can you describe the bacon flight?
The bacon flight itself has these five different kinds of bacon, and when we were developing what the roster was, we were trying to figure out what the consistency would be. We chose to go with different cures and different smokes on them. We have the applewood smoked and the cherry smoked and the hickory smoked so that people can taste the difference from the different kinds of cures and smoke. We tried to find bacons from across the country because every pig has a different life depending on the region they live in.
When did BaconLand start? Was it before bacon became the all-encompassing cultural phenomenon that it is today?
We actually developed a concept called Bacon and Bourbon that was internal to Superfly, and we used to do it at the Superfly Christmas parties. That was in 2009, 2010. And people loved it so much that we were like we should definitely take this to the festival format. I’ve been in the service and food industry for 25 years. I don’t know that bacon wasn’t ever as popular as it is now. It just has more creative formats for content, much like what you guys do.
How much bacon do you go through over the course of a festival?
One thousand pounds. It’s a lot of bacon. This year for the first time we had our own bacon made. We went to the farm, we talked to the farmer who was raising the pigs, we chose the pigs, and then we had a chef actually make us the bacon that we wanted. We have proprietary bacon on the list now as well.
What did you look for during the sourcing process?
We were looking for a farmer who had sustainable practices and husbandry. We were looking for happy pigs because we think that happy pigs make good bacon. And then we wanted a slow smoked bacon that really focused on keeping the flavor of the pig that also added layers of the smoke that were in there. I think we chose hickory as our smoke on it. It’s smoked a little longer and costs a little bit more in that perspective, but it was mostly around just choosing the right pigs and the right farmer.
What are the logistics around serving festival bacon? What format does it come in?
We’ve done a couple different concepts around it. The first time we did BaconLand was actually at GoogaMooga. We did it for two years starting in 2012 and then in 2013. When we first served it there we had it on a tray, and we put a piece of paper down that defined what the bacon was, so people would see exactly what they were eating. Then we moved to the bacon flag, which is my favorite, but not my chef’s favorite. We would thread five pieces of bacon on each end, then threaded them all together like a flag. People at festivals love to see food stand up. They want to be able to look across the field and go, “What is that? Where did you get it?” kind of thing, and people loved the bacon flag. This year the chef was like that takes too long, I’m going to try something different. She did a bacon bouquet where she put the bacon on a piece of paper and wound it up like a bouquet. We also had these compostable stickers that defined which ones were which. Unfortunately for her, we’re going back to the bacon flag because we got a lot of feedback from people who missed the flag. But yeah, it’s a long process to prep the bacon, and it’s a long process to put it in a format that’s approachable to people at festivals, too.
At the festivals, do you get a good number of people who are appreciating the nuances in the bacon, or is it mostly drunk people gobbling it up?
I think that we probably have a good portion. It’s probably about 50/50 because bacon’s the gateway meat; people love it. The idea of bacon is just so exciting. It’s going to get a lot of people who are just like, “it’s just bacon. I want bacon.” They want to eat at someplace called BaconLand, but we do have people—because it’s such a foodie culture now, especially in San Francisco at Outside Lands—who really ask questions and want to know more about the bacon from the people who are running the booth.
The summer is over for BaconLand. Do you plan what you’re going to do for next summer over the course of the year?
We do. We definitely do. And BaconLand is something we do that doesn’t actually make us real money. We just cover our costs. Because bacon is 100 percent of a protein, and we don’t have a way to put fillers to manage that cost. Really we do it because we love people’s reaction. It’s not the best business model from a food service perspective but, like I said, we really want to think outside the box and blow up the concept of traditional concessions food and actually give people things that feel more creative and fun. As Superfly does more festivals, we will always do BaconLand. They have a few new things coming up in the next couple of years. I could see it grow in that way. And there could be some pop-up dinners around it as well. We’re thinking more in the format of surprise, delight and brand extension.
What’s next for bacon in general?
From a food professional standpoint, I always go back to the sustainability part. I don’t know if there’s enough bacon to satisfy the bacon demand, but I do think that people are starting to discover the salty sweet aspect of it. People are seeing how great it is on sweets, like maple bacon donuts and bacon in ice cream. I think we’re going to see pastry chefs use the natural salts of bacon in their pastries and not add a refined salt to it. By using the salt that is [in bacon], you get that smoky flavor. We’re going to see a lot more from the sweets side. Anytime you put bacon on anything, it’s approachable to anybody. It’s the great equalizer in food.