The Making of Meat Fight
Editor's note: In honor of Sunday's sold-out Meat Fight, we're celebrating smoked animal flesh all week long in our inaugural Meat Week, in which we celebrate the procuring, cooking and face-stuffing of dead-animal flesh. To start, we asked our own Alice Laussade, James Beard Award winner and co-founder of Meat Fight, to share the event's origin story.
I will always remember my first taste of mind-blowingly good brisket. It was at my friend Greg Smith's house in 2010. He had smoked the brisket himself, and when he offered it up without sauce, I was skeptical. But I'm polite (2010 me was, at least), so I tasted it. A straight-up meatgasm commenced, I spoke to God, and that's when I became sold on Texas barbecue.
My husband and I talked about it for days. We were obsessed with this brisket. And because we're lazy, we devised a plan to get that brisket to come to our house.
"We'll have a party. All our friends who've been smoking brisket can come and we'll tell them it's a competition. But really it's just us getting our faces full of meat."
"What will we call it?"
"No. No way."
A few hours of name brainstorming later, Meat Fight was born. Forty people at my house. The contestants: No one you know. The esteemed judges: A couple of my writer friends from the Dallas Observer and my dad.
We knew we had something special when the trophies were being handed out. There was extreme joy on the faces of the winners. And the losers weren't just upset -- they were angry. One of the competitors to my dad: "YOU DIDN'T EVEN EAT MY COLE SLAW FOR THE PORK?" My dad: "This is Meat Fight, not Cole Slaw Fight."
A rematch was immediately planned. We didn't have the potato salad competition, which was a giant misstep, but we did have the foresight to turn the party into a fundraiser, since so many of our friends wanted to come. But if we were going to charge our friends money, I needed some high-powered judges. So I begged then-blogger now-barbecue-prophet Daniel Vaughn, Pecan Lodge owners Justin and Diane Fourton, Slow Bone owner Jack Perkins, The Grape's Brian C. Luscher and and Lockhart's Jill Bergus to judge.
After the Meat Fight and Pie Slam were over and the trophies were handed out, we had raised $2,000 for the National MS Society, and I was beaming. That's when Luscher and Vaughn cornered me. "Why isn't Meat Fight a Dallas fundraising event?" Luscher asked me, like it was the most obvious question in the world.
"Uh, because my backyard isn't that big. Would Dallas even pay to come to this?"
Vaughn chimed in. "There's meat and beer. Of course they would."
One keg stand later, my husband and I began planning Meat Fight 2012: Dallas. It would all benefit the National MS Society, but this would be different than your average fundraiser luncheon. We hoped to get four Dallas chefs to agree to compete. There would have to be whiskey. There would have to be large pigs and cows everywhere. In order for people to take the event seriously, we would need a shit ton of glitter.
The idea was embraced so overwhelmingly and so quickly that we didn't know what hit us. Instead of four competing chefs, we had 12, including some of Dallas' best. Instead of having a panel of four judges, we had eight. And that included The Aaron Franklin. We couldn't believe it.
We couldn't have done any of this without The Meat Village. Without Daniel Vaughn, we couldn't have gotten our judges. Without Luscher (Sausage King of the Southwest), we couldn't have snagged all the fancy chefs. These people don't just donate money to a cause -- they donate so much time and support.
Barbecue bigshots offered their help and guidance at every turn. Perkins was a supporter from the very beginning. He donated hugely popular auction items, and even helped us with little things, like getting trashcans at last year's fight. Jill and Jeff Bergus talked us up on Twitter and sold our T-shirts to the entire cast of The League. And Justin and Diane Fourton spent so much time helping us shape what this event would become -- they even built us a spreadsheet to calculate how much meat we would need.
And this year, without our Twitter and Facebook fans helping us beg and message and harass, Parks & Rec's Nick Offerman probably wouldn't be coming to Dallas to judge Meat Fight. But he is.
You expect your family to help out with something like this. And mine helped like crazy -- my mom and dad took tickets at the door, my in-laws ran the merch booth, my brother, sister-in-law and brother-in-law lugged everything from chairs to kegs up and down the stairs of Sons of Hermann Hall. Our friends painted trophies, cleaned up trash, ran the photo booth, and did everything they could to help out.
But what we didn't expect was for Dallas to help us so much. We want to say thank you to every single person in the Meat Village who has helped make Meat Fight such a fun event in such a ridiculously short amount of time. Last year, Meat Fight raised $20,000 for the National MS Society. This year, we're hoping to top that. And it's all thanks to the Meat Village.
Never underestimate the power of brisket.