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Last Saturday, more than a thousand NYC barbecue fans attended the Jeff Michner BBQ Benefit at Pig Beach in Brooklyn, one of the largest events of its kind to be held this year. The event was a fundraiser for Michner's family after he passed away suddenly last year, and it was a chance for family and friends to celebrate Jeff's life and legacy.
"I feel very blessed and grateful to have such an outpouring of love and support," Matt Abdoo, chef and partner at Pig Beach, told me in an email. "It exceeded all my expectations. From the BBQ community and all of our chef friends that joined us to the support of all our sponsors there are not enough thanks for me to express how truly amazing the day was. I was very nervous the night before with the rain and cold weather, but I know Jeff was smiling down on us when he gave us the rays of sunshine and beautiful weather."
The fundraiser collected about $53,000 for Michner's family, with half coming from the silent auction and the GoFundMe (you can still donate if you missed the event) and half coming from ticket sales.
In many ways this enormous event was more than just a fundraiser. It was a deeply personal experience for Jeff's family, friends, and co-workers and a chance to remember Jeff and tell his story to the crowd. At one point, Jeff's sister Meghan and his wife Sara both talked about him.
"He was the best husband and my best friend," Sara said during the event. "He made me who I am. He made me happy. He was the best. He was made to be a father. My heart is broken for [my daughter]. She will know how much he loved her through all of you and when we keep honoring him."
To help celebrate Jeff and attract large crowds, top pitmasters from around the U.S. showed up in droves to make food and serve at the event. That list included such names as Amy Mills from 17th Street Barbecue making whole hog, Leslie Roark Scott and Craig Verhage from Ubon's Barbeque making barbecue chicken wings, and Chris Lilly from Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q making gnocchi with BBQ beef rib ragu.
Some of my favorite things I got to try (and I didn't get to try everything) were the brisket tacos from Billy Durney of Hometown Bar-B-Que, the tri-tip steak from Phil Wingo and John Gower, and the burger from Gotham Burger Social Club.
The benefit was also a look at what may be in store for barbecue events in NYC's future, where we will have more intimate events rather than events the size of the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party, which will almost certainly not return this year due to it leaving Madison Square Park. I fully expect we will see more events like this, targeting 500 to 3,000 people instead of tens of thousands
Abdoo from Pig Beach said that the Jeff Michner BBQ Benefit has set the stage to turn into an annual celebration, which will go toward raising money for the new Jeff Michner Foundation and other charities. He expects that the next event will be at a second Pig Beach location, likely in Long Island City, Queens.
"We intend for all the money raised to create scholarships for children who have lost a parent and have an interest in cooking, along with supporting organizations such as A Caring Hand that helps families with managing grief and loss of loved ones," Abdoo said. "God willing, we are very hopeful to kick off our season in LIC with this event next April with even more pitmasters and chefs supporting."
I'm looking forward to hearing more from the talented Pig Beach team and will be marking my calendar for next year's event once it's fully set.
In the meantime, the next large-scale barbecue event that should be on your calendar is Rib King NYC 2019, where Pig Beach and many other top local joints will be in attendance. It takes place Thursday, May 30 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I hope to see you there.
Founder, NYC BBQ
EAT ALL ABOUT IT
Here are the top BBQ and food stories in the New York area this week:
In case you missed it last week, the champion of Brisket King NYC 2019 was the soon-to-open Juicy Lucy BBQ from Staten Island. The Staten Island Advance wrote about the event and shouted out NYC BBQ for our coverage.
Josh Bowen, the pitmaster and owner of John Brown Smokehouse, has officially opened the doors of Mothership Meat Company in Long Island City. It’s has an enormous smoker and veers toward Central-Texas-style barbecue versus the Kansas-City-style of John Brown. Look for a more detailed look at the joint next week in the NYC BBQ Weekly newsletter.
Pig Beach in Brooklyn (see above) will be offering an “insane Tasso Bacon and Brisket Burger on an Wolferman’s English muffin” along with two other English muffin sandwiches from today through April 24 to coincide with National English Muffin Day.
Eater NY editor Robert Sietsema recently raved about a roasted brisket sandwich from Bolivian Llama Party near Downtown Brooklyn at the Ashland. The rich sandwich includes spices like locoto (a pepper from Bolivia), shredded carrots, Aioli, cheese, and onions.
Grub Street has a new guide out on where to eat ribs in NYC at some of the fancier restaurants in the city. (Shameless plug moment: If you also like ribs, don’t miss Rib King NYC, where you’ll be able to eat lots of great pork and beef ribs on May 30 in Brooklyn.)
Bobcat's Texas BBQ in Edgewater, New Jersey has closed after being open for less than a year. The Main Street location in Ramsey, NJ remains open if you need to get your Bobcat’s fix.
If you have a backyard in the NYC metro, count yourself lucky. If you have a grill too, extra lucky. Al Horowitz, best known for his Smokin’ Al’s joint on Long Island, provided grilling and maintenance tips to CBS New York for anyone who’s extra lucky and wants to grill again this summer.
Here are the top BBQ (and related) food events coming soon to the New York metro area:
April 25-28: Pig Beach will be hosting two very cool events in late April, including a collaboration with acclaimed Georgia joint Southern Soul BBQ (on April 25 and 26) and its second annual Crawfish Boil with BBQ Ninja Craig Verhage (on April 27 and 28). Buy tickets to Southern Soul and/or to the Crawfish Boil.
April 27: If you’re looking for fun in Bushwick, you won’t want to miss Pig Out at Bunker. At celebrity chef Jimmy Tu's Bushwick restaurant Bunker, you’ll find a party with a whole roasted Heritage Berkshire hog, locally sourced beers and cocktails, great music, and more. Buy tickets here.
May 6: Hill Country in Manhattan will be hosting the authors of Tacos of Texas, Jarod Neece & Mando Rayo, for Taco Sessions. The evening will consist of a screening of Jarod & Mando’s newly released seven-part docuseries that explores iconic tacos across Texas. You’ll also get to eat some Texas-style barbecue tacos too. Use the promo code “migas” for $10 off! Buy tickets here.
May 18: The World’s Fare 2019 at Citi Field in Queens will be taking place again in mid-May. More than 100 vendors will come together and unite through authentic food, drink and music curated by the city’s leading culinary advocates. Buy tickets here.
May 18-19: Harlem's food and the people who make it are waiting for your taste buds during The Harlem Stroll. This ticket gives you access to an unlimited walk around tasting of 20+ of the best restaurants in Harlem, including Dinosaur Bar-B-Que and Charles' Country Pan Fried Chicken. Buy tickets here.
May 30: Don’t miss Rib King NYC 2019, the first barbecue event curated by NYC BBQ. This event in Williamsburg, Brooklyn is produced by Food Karma Events and will be a celebration of ribs and rib creations with more than 10 pitmasters and chefs from NYC. Early bird ticket sales end on May 1, so don’t delay. Buy tickets here.
June 8: The NYC Bacon and Beer Classic 2019 will take place at the Brooklyn Mirage and will celebrate two of the best things in life: bacon and beer. Over 50 local restaurants will be serving bacon-inspired dishes, and local breweries will be pouring over 100 top craft beers. Early bird tickets are on sale now. Buy tickets here.