The other day I had the pleasure to try pig ears and pig tails. They were prepared by Chef Linton Hopkins and I will eat anything this guy cooks.
Linton and his wife Gina own and operate Restaurant Eugene here in Atlanta. Friday they had a lunch as part of the High Museum’s annual fund raiser. I had the chance to attend and jumped at the chance. As of late Restaurant Eugene is becoming one of the top restaurants in the city. They have embraced their southern roots and it shows in many ways.
This was a fun day. At the lunch there was a panel of guys who shared a little information on their specialty in the food or wine world as we enjoyed pig parts, pimento cheese and a caramel popcorn that was some how made to have a smoky taste, among other dishes.
There were two wine makers, a southern food writer, Chef Hopkins and Alan Benton, who is the worlds greatest bacon maker.
The writer, John T Edge, was the MC if you will. He let us know why we were there, fund raiser for the High Museum, and took turns asking each of these guys to pontificate a bit on their product and it’s connection with the south. It was good stuff and the common theme of each was they way food and the dinner table brought us all together. Then it was question and answer time.
There were about five or six people who ask questions. Everyone of them were directed to Alan Benton. This guy is a cult hero and the cult loves his meats. Mr. Benton talked about how he was not really doing anything special, just doing what his father and grandfather and great grand ect… He talked about how it was just a way of life for him to smoke meat. It was for survival more than anything. He talked about what a humble background he came from. He talked about how hard it was to make a living smoking meat. That was up until about ten years ago. He told us about how a hot shot chef in Tennessee found his product, loved it and started to spread the word. He told us how today he could connect every chef that uses his product to this Tennessee chef. He let us also know how grateful he was to this chef and everyone who used his product. This was because for many years he could hardly make a living smoking meat. He talked about laying awake at night and wondering if he should stop and do something else. When the last question was answered he got a standing ovation.
Mr. Benton is around sixty years old and a very humble man. He is very soft spoken, but when he speaks people listen, they hang on every word. He also listens to what you have to say. I was introduced to him before the lunch, three hours later I went to him to say thanks and nice to meet ya. His reply was “Tracy it was nice to meet you as well”. I could not believe he remembered my name, he must have been introduce to sixty or so people at this lunch. When I told him this he said “Tracy I don’t have so many friends that I can afford not to remember someones name”.