Exclusive: Jeff Mauro Dishes on the Launch of His First Restaurant, Pork & Mindy's
First he conquered the ranks of Food Network Stardom with his Season 7 competition win, then he tackled the world of between-bread creations on Sandwich King and just two years ago he joined forces with four other co-hosts for the ultimate celebration, The Kitchen. Now Jeff Mauro is setting his sights on something offscreen: the restaurant scene. His first restaurant, Pork & Mindy's, which he'll launch with business partner Kevin Corsello, is slated to open at the end of 2015 and will feature a hybrid of "food, music and art," according to Jeff, and the very best in barbecue.
Pork & Mindy's will open in the Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago, a city that's currently known more for lakeside skyscrapers than for smoky barbecue. But Jeff's planning to change that when he releases his over-the-top meaty menu in the Windy City. According to Jeff, the focus will be on "real, authentic, slow-smoked barbecue," and he adds that just as the eatery's name suggests, there will be plenty of pork. "All our pork is cooked 14 hours in a natural wood smoker, bone in and shredded." Though the foundation may be pig, including what he deems "pig candy … caramelized crispy bacon brittle," the offerings go far beyond that, to smoked legs of lamb, chicken and chuck roasts.
In true King fashion, there will also be a heaping helping of sandwiches available. "We'll have seven sandwiches — as of now — on the menu," Jeff said. "My rule of thumb is three to four ingredients per sandwich, so we have limited ingredients, but each ingredient is impeccable, from the meat to the bun to the topping to the sauce." That smoked lamb leg? Jeff says it's going "on a crusty French roll with a molasses-brown sugar sauce on there, and feta cheese."
As for the sweet treats on the menu, Jeff revealed the makings of "a real creative deconstructed cannoli," which he says will feature the ricotta-filled classic transformed into ice cream with "ribbons of the ricotta." With this dessert, he'll be honoring his Italian heritage, something he shares with business partner Corsello and his cousin, who's set to be the general manager.
It's that spirit of family togetherness that enticed Jeff to pursue Pork & Mindy's as an opportunity, one that's very close to home. "One of the tiresome things of this [TV] career is having to get on a plane to earn a living," Jeff revealed. "Now I have something built with my family, with my friends in my hometown that I can devote a lot of energy to [while] being home." Pork & Mindy's will celebrate that idea of "home" by shining a spotlight on local artists and charities. "It wasn't just about food. It was about connecting to the community," according to Jeff. "In the community we're opening it is the community I spent a lot of my youth in, and it is like the epicenter of food, music and art."
Want an early taste of Pork & Mindy's? Check out Jeff's recipe for Three-Tone Power Slaw, which he made on Sandwich King and says will be on the menu at the restaurant.