Piggin’ Out

Friends Becker Hall and Rene Louapre just wanted to have a Southern-style pork roast to raise money for a friend; five years later, the two are sitting high on the hog in local festival royalty. The first Hogs for the Cause was in 2009, intended to be a traditional Southern pork roast on the Fly in Audubon Park. After meeting 4-year-old Ben Sarrat Jr., who was suffering from a brain tumor, they decided to dedicate funds from the event to Sarrat’s family (the boy died in 2010). Since then the festival has grown in scope – the event is now a cook-off at City Park’s festival grounds drawing competitors from all across the culinary spectrum – but it still maintains its laid-back sensibility and fundraising aspect (the event now benefits a Hogs for the Cause fund at Children’s Hospital, which supports families of children with cancer). Besides the cook-off March 29, there’s a gala dinner March 28 with live music and seafood dishes by Southern chefs. The cook-off Saturday includes the usual barrage of pork creations from 90 competitors, who include both well-known New Orleans chefs and amateurs. In the past they’ve cooked up traditional barbecue plates, pulled pork beignets, cracklin’ topped with nacho cheese, bacon-infused Champagne and everything in between. Also notable is this year’s music line-up, which includes country star Pat Green, the much buzzed-about New Orleans folk band Hurray for the Riff Raff and The Hold Steady, a Brooklyn pop-rock band with a sizable cult following. Hall, an investment banker, and Louapre, lawyer and prolific tweeter, talk about this year’s fest.

When you first started this event, could you ever have imagined that the music line-up would be just as big a draw as the food?  Louapre: At the first event we plugged in an iPod and had music playing from that. Now we have great local, regional and national acts playing … it makes people want to come outside, eat barbecue and listen to music.

How much do you dislike vegans and vegetarians?  L: I don’t dislike vegetarians. My favorite animal is one. Hall: I guess we give them a hard time, but we have them covered, too – we serve beer. A lot of it. I guess that opens me up to the Celiacs, though. The only thing we vehemently dislike is cancer.

What advice would you give to attendees to avoid pork fatigue?  H: It’s an epidemic at Hogs, really. Stay hydrated by your preferred means, and if that doesn’t work channel your inner Hall & Oates. That method has proven seminal and faultless for us. L: Drink a beer in between each sample of pork. I read that works on the Internet and they can’t put anything on the Internet that isn’t true.

At what point does creativity with pork cross the line? Bacon sno-balls? L: A lot of people figured Columbus would fall off the face of the Earth when he set out for India, but instead he discovered the Americas. So there’s a giant pork idea out there. And one of our teams will find it. H: There are no boundaries with something as versatile as pork. A very sagacious man once said, “nobody puts Baby in a corner.” That was an obvious reference to pork. Bacon sno-balls actually fared quite well in the past.  

For more information on Hogs for the Cause, visit HogsForTheCause.org.

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