There are occasions when self-restraint is just not in the cards. Every man comes to this moment in his own way, and there’s no point in explaining or excusing it. It could be as serious as a breakup with your significant other, or getting hauled into the boss’ office for a moment of reckoning. It could also be as simple as stepping out of an Uber into a puddle and spending the rest of the day glowering down at the water stains seeping into the leather of your favorite bespoke wingtips. (Why, oh why, didn’t you take the time to learn to waterproof your own shoes?)
On such days, sensible choices like lean chicken, brown rice, and roasted Brussels sprouts need not apply. Your lizard brain demands indulgence, and that means one thing: bacon. And don’t get any high-toned ideas about crafting a sandwich out of it, or crumbling it into a spinach salad. You need it crispy, smoky, just a little bit greasy, and in great quantities (like from a bacon delivery service, for example) — triglycerides be damned.
Hey, you’ll get no shade from us. But here’s a thought: What if you didn’t have to wait for a day from hell to warrant such heavenly indulgence? What if you could get down and dirty with that delicious bacon flavor any damn time you felt like it?
That was the very inspiration behind Pig Out! chips, an ingenious new snack that convincingly reproduces the crunch and flavor of freshly cooked bacon from — wait for it — mushrooms. Created by chef Dave Anderson, founder of Los Angeles’ groundbreaking Madeleine Bistro and caterer to the stars, these “pigless” bacon chips are crispy, salty, and, against all odds, deeply satisfying to our bacon cravings.
We cross-examined Anderson about the eureka moment behind this outrageous exploit in plant-based snacking. (With our mouths full of “pigless” bacon, naturally.)
The Manual: What was the inspiration for these chips in the first place? Looking for a way to overindulge in bacon deliciousness without skyrocketing cholesterol? Just doing something new and cool?
Dave Anderson: Yes and yes. I had already done a lot of work developing plant-based bacon out of mushrooms since the early 2000s. When my co-founder Bill Glaser and I were discussing which product we would release first, Bill mentioned that everyone eats chips. It’s the kind of product that brings people together and is really versatile. We see our chips as an ingredient to be used in place of bacon as much as a go-to snack. So it made a lot of sense as a flagship product.
TM: Why mushrooms?
DA: When I was first thinking about making plant-based bacon back in the 2000s, I started by doing what everyone else did and played around with tempeh and tofu. But in testing a number of ingredients, I came across mushrooms and was really blown away by their versatility. They seemed to behave more like bacon than other ingredients. With mushrooms, you have something that is soft and pliable raw, but when cooked up, they become firm and crunchy. The most challenging part was finding the right kind of mushrooms. That was a process, but we finally found our “Goldilocks” of the mushroom kingdom. The King Oyster was just right in terms of size, flexibility, and umami flavor.
TM: How did you achieve the right flavor and consistency?
DA: It was a matter of playing with different temperatures and seasonings, and working out a process to reduce the oil absorption. Initially we tried smoking the mushrooms in an actual smoker. But after breathing in pre-Industrial Revolution levels of smoke, we were actually able to find some topical flavor combinations that brought an inherent bacon flavor out of the mushroom, which turned out to create a really balanced, bacon-y taste.
TM: What about the Pig Out! chip makes you proudest?
DA: I never thought I would do chips. Even when I owned my restaurant, Madeleine Bistro, they just weren’t really on my radar. But as we started getting into chips, it dawned on me that when I was a kid, my great-grandfather owned a Wise potato chip distributorship in upstate New York. My grandfather and grandmother would travel around New York, Pennsylvania, and even Ohio, delivering potato chips. I’m now spending my days continuing my family’s business and taking it to the next level for the next generation of chip enthusiasts.
TM: What can we expect next from you? (A mushroom-based bourbon whiskey, perhaps?)
DA: More bacon products. For example, I’ve created a bacon strip that fries up just like bacon but is made from mushrooms. After that, we have plans to release a number of plant-based bacon products, plant-based chicken products, and plant-based steak products. Right now, though, we’re focused on chips, and I’m loving the process.
Pig Out! chips in four delicious flavors—original, cheddar, chipotle and Kansas City BBQ. Entirely plant-based, gluten- and soy-free, and untainted by any artificial ingredients, they are currently available for pre-order only.