Chicago native Jeff Mauro knows a thing or two about baseball and what to eat at the ballpark. Mauro, 38, rose to culinary fame after winning Food Network Star, and now hosts two Food Network shows: Sandwich King and The Kitchen. His restaurant, Pork & Mindy’s, is located in Wrigley Field, home of the World Series champion Chicago Cubs. We talked with the Emmy-nominated Mauro about two of his favorite things — baseball and bacon.
What is it like having a restaurant at Wrigley Field?
We aspire to be an iconic brand, and the Cubs are one of the most iconic sports teams on the planet. Plus, we are a Chicago-born-and-bred company. We feel at home in the bleachers.
Who is your favorite baseball player?
[Cubs first baseman] Anthony Rizzo. The guy just donated over $3 million to Lurie Children’s Hospital. He plays hard and he’s likeable and really friendly. In my youth, I was a giant Carlton Fisk fan. I was pudgy, as was “Pudge.”
You grew up a White Sox fan?
White Sox fan here. I never hated the Cubs, just grew up going to Comiskey Park. My dad was a Sox fan, therefore me and my siblings are all Sox fans. However, we all still rooted hard for the Cubs last year.
How much fun do you have on Food Network?
It’s been surreal, to the point where I literally have to pinch myself when I wake up. I was a perpetual class clown my whole life and now I’m basically getting paid to be a class clown, while cooking. It’s so much fun.
Pig Candy BLT
Every baseball fan should make a trip to Wrigley Field. But even if you’re not on Chicago’s North Side, you can still enjoy one of Wrigley’s best sandwiches. “We use our wildly popular and addictive Pig Candy instead of regular bacon,” says Mauro, of his Pork & Mindy’s creation. “It’s coated in brown sugar.”
12-14 slices of applewood smoked bacon
2 cups light brown sugar
2 sweet onions, sliced
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup barbecue sauce
4 brioche buns or hamburger buns
Roma tomato, sliced
Romaine lettuce, shredded
First Base: Pig Candy
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place brown sugar in shallow dish. Gently press each slice of bacon into sugar, until coated. Place coated bacon on sheet pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Bake for 30-50 minutes, until crispy. Remove from sheet to prevent sticking. Cool on wire rack.
Second Base: Caramelized Onions
Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Third Base: Barbecue Mayo
Mix together 1 cup mayonnaise and ¼ cup barbecue sauce.
Home Run: Assemble Sandwich
On a buttered and toasted bun, place a layer of the caramelized onions, 3-4 pieces of halved Pig Candy, tomatoes (seasoned with salt), lettuce and a schmear of barbecue mayo on top bun. Close and serve.
—By Samantha Coley