Operation Bacon Salt

Operation Bacon Salt.

hide captionOperation Bacon Salt.

The makers of Bacon Salt think "everything should taste like bacon." Even U.S. troop rations.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MIKE PESCA, host:

Several months ago, Justin Esch and Dave Lefkow got an email from a corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps. Let me read part of it. "I'm currently stationed on a small Army forward operating post in the western part of the Al-Anbar province in Iraq with a detachment of about 60 Marines. I'm sorry to report, however, that although there are many amenities provided for us, regular access to bacon is not one of them."

See, Justin and Dave are inventors of something called Bacon Salt. It says on the bottle - Everything Should Taste Like Bacon. They started Operation Bacon Salt to get bacon flavoring to at least some of the troops. Was this necessary? Probably not. A publicity stunt? Yeah, quite possibly. Should everything really taste like bacon? That is a harder question, and fortunately Dave and Justin are here to help us answer it. Hello, fellows.

Mr. DAVID LEFKOW (Co-Founder, Bacon Salt): Hello.

Mr. JUSTIN ESCH (Bacontrepreneur): Hello...

PESCA: So, we'll go to Justin first, as I ask what are the origins of Bacon Salt?

Mr. ESCH: Bacon Salt was an idea that I had. It was actually inspired by a cocktail.

PESCA: Ahah...

Mr. ESCH: It's a drink called the Mitch Morgan. It's a shot of bourbon with a bacon garnish, served in a restaurant in Telluride, Colorado where I grew up, and called the Fat Alley Barbecue. And for whatever reason, that inspired me to make some bacon-flavored seasoning salt.

PESCA: And Dave, how did you become involved?

Mr. LEFKOW: Well, I sort of dragged Justin into actually making this product.

PESCA: How did you know how to do it? I don't know how to crack the condiment market.

Mr. LEFKOW: We didn't, and we still don't really. No, we learned over time, but we stumbled our way through it I guess I would say.

Mr. ESCH: We hit every hurdle face first and just climbed up - threw ourselves over the side every time we came to something we didn't know how to do.

Mr. LEFKOW: I can't count how many ways we messed up...

PESCA: And after hitting those hurdles, it's one thing to pour salt in the wounds, but bacon salt, that might not be so bad?

Mr. LEFKOW: It would be delicious, in a word.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LEFKOW: Absolutely.

PESCA: So, is there any real bacon in the bacon salt?

Mr. ESCHE: There's none. No, it's a vegetarian product, the hickory flavor's actually vegan. It's got no calories, it's got no fat, it's vegetarian, and it's even kosher, just for the ironic value.

PESCA: (Unintelligible). Do you know if any orthodox Jews or people who are - who keep kosher have tried it or does it violate certain spirit of the law?

Mr. LEFKOW: Quite a lot. We got emails every day from people - usually the first thing they say is, who certified this kosher?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LEFKOW: I won't answer.

Mr. ESCHE: Who's the crazy rabbi who actually did this?

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: So you have natural, you mention hickory, original, pepper. Did you try any flavors that failed?

Mr. ESCHE: We did, we came out with a maple flavor, at first. There was original, hickory, and maple. We first, actually - the first failure was experimenting in my kitchen, this is Dave. Experimenting in my kitchen with bacon drippings and salt, and that was a disaster. It was yellow, tinged, it was fatty.

Mr. LEFKOW: It was disgusting.

Mr. ESCHE: It was gross. It was disgusting.

PESCA: So, how does the - how does operation bacon salt go? Had you worked with the military? How's that moving?

Mr. LEFKOW: We'd had emails from guys, and we'd been - they'd been buying it from us. We just didn't really notice that we were sending a lot of product to APO and AFO addresses, and then we just got an email. You read part of it earlier.

The guy's name was Lee R. Boden (ph), whose 21, he's from Coshocton, Ohio. Just sent this email and said, "I want to buy some bacon salt for the guys I'm stationed with." So, I just mailed them product - you know, it was just kind of a reactionary thing, and this was back in October or November. And then people - word spread in Afghanistan.

PESCA: In Iraq, yeah.

Mr. LEFKOW: Yeah, it was like if you email these guys in Seattle - they will mail you bacon flavored salt. I mean...

Mr. ESCHE: There are a couple in a cave somewhere that are eating bacon salt...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ESCHE: In Afghanistan.

Mr. LEFKOW: It just kind of snowballed, and one thing led to another. We really didn't do anything with it except mail people bacon salt. I mean - it took off in like February, March.

Mr. ESCHE: Yeah, it just sort of built organically - they were soldiers stationed in places that didn't have cushy mess halls and had no access to bacon or very little access to bacon.

And they are eating these horrible MRE's, and we just felt bad for them, and we just said - you know, let's send them some bacon salt. Let's try to brighten their day a little bit.

PESCA: Ian was handling some of your product, yesterday. We do have some bottles in here - they've not yet been open, but just in handling it, Ian Chillag could detect the smell of the bacon-like product on his hands for hours. I assume that stray dogs were following him in the street. Does it get daunting being constantly surrounded by the odor of bacon?

Mr. ESCHE: No. It's awesome. You can't get any better than that.

Mr. LEFKOW: However, when we did start out of Dave's garage, because that's where the company - that was like the original headquarters.

Mr. ESCHE: It still smells of...

Mr. LEFKOW: Was David's two-car garage. It was literally like every dog in the neighborhood - in this little plain community was circling the house, and his wife was...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LEFKOW: Near the end - anyway it was just thousands of cases of bacon salt in this little two-car garage. She got a little tired of it near the end, I think.

PESCA: I would also caution a member's of the law enforcement community perhaps against eating this - just because, let's say you're a state trooper - you pull someone over, the guy rolled down the window and he says, something smells like bacon. He might not...

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: Be dissing you. I mean I know you're going to want to drag him out of the car, and take him to jail. But you literally could just, smell like bacon. But I don't know if you've considered that warning at all, but it might something to look into.

Mr. ESCHE: We actually had a guy that - as part of a recipe contest submitted a bacon-salt air freshener. So he took a renewzit air freshener - car air freshener, and replaced the contents with bacon salt. And he loves it - it makes his whole car smell like bacon, so he can't go round, really.

PESCA: All right. Are we going to do this thing? Are we going to do this taste test? - All right. Joining us now to eat bacon salt is Jacob Ganz, who is a like a director - I guess, you would call him.

Mr. ESCHE: I guess.

PATRICIA MCKINNEY: Like a director.

PESCA: Hey, Jacob? You're a vegetarian, aren't you?

JACOB GANZ: I'll eat fish, but no meat. So, bacon is off the menu from now on.

PESCA: Technically Justin and Dave...

MCKINNEY: He's shaking it up.

PESCA: Isn't bacon a fish, technically?

Mr. ESCHE: For some people it is. There's actually a group of people that call themselves bacon-vegetarians - that only eat bacon.

Mr. LEFKOW: He would be a bacon pescatarian.

PESCA: Tricia McKinney, our producer. What's your real title?

(Soundbite of laughter)

MCKINNEY: How long have we worked together?

(Soundbite of laughter)

JACOB GANZ: She's like an editor.

MCKINNEY: I'm like an editor.

PESCA: You're like an editor. Everyone come in and offers advice, and I nod like I'm listening. So, Tricia - what's your food background?

MCKINNEY: I'm an omnivore.

PESCA: Yeah, so - let's all start with a baseline popcorn tasting. OK. We'll all taste the same food, popcorn. And we'll all have the same flavor of bacon salt on it. OK. So, pick - what do you think the best is, original?

MCKINNEY: I would go - what tastes the most, just like bacon.

PESCA: What tastes the most like bacon, guys?

Mr. ESCHE: I'd say, original.

PESCA: Original, it's got to be, original.

Mr. LEFKOW: Original's like more of a, straight-up bacon.

MCKINNEY: I have original. Here I go.

PESCA: Tricia McKinney eating bacon salt. I'm going to eat mine.

(Soundbite of eating bacon salt)

MCKINNEY: It like, filled my nose.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: There is a kind of wasabi affect where it does get your sinuses' a little bit.

(Soundbite of eating bacon salt)

PESCA: Hmm, I want more.

MCKINNEY: I like it.

PESCA: What's up next?

MCKINNEY: What do you want to do next, Mike?

PESCA: I got hickory, bacon, and a marshmallow.

MCKINNEY: Oh God.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ESCHE Oh my God. That's usually not what we go for, but it might be OK.

Mr. LEFKOW: It's not terrible.

GANZ: It does say everything on the front of this bacon salt.

PESCA: Can I've the egg sandwich? That wasn't that bad.

GANZ: I'll take a see - on marshmallows.

PESCA: Yeah, that's definitely too strong.

MCKINNEY: Oh.

GANZ: Could be good, marshmallows.

MCKINNEY: I don't think so.

GANZ: I bet if you took a little chocolate and melted it on there with the marshmallow, and the hickory - it could be good.

MCKINNEY: We have chocolate. All right, chocolate and hickory, bacon salt - here I go.

(Soundbite of eating)

MCKINNEY: Piquant.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GANZ: Can I have one of the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? This is going to be an Elvis Presley special.

PESCA: OK. Cool.

MCKINNEY: I don't know that I would do the chocolate with the bacon salt, again. But it's not offensive.

GANZ: I think the thing that we are missing, in all this...

PESCA: Shame?

GANZ: Well, no.

PESCA: Self-control?

GANZ: No, I think that - yeah, self control is easy because there is no fat - there's no like - you don't get that massively, greasy, guilty feeling.

PESCA: That's true.

GANZ: Of eating, from what I remember.

Mr. LEFKOW: It doesn't make your stomach look like a rock.

GANZ: All right - like, you know this - when you're eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with bacon on it you want to feel like you're doing something wrong, and this doesn't really feel wrong.

PESCA: It's actually pretty good.

MCKINNEY: Oh that's good.

PESCA: Justin Esche and Dave Lefkow - man, you guys, you not only gave us a good interview you brought bacon salt into our lives, and we want to thank you.

Mr. ESCHE: We thank you for having us, appreciate it.

Mr. LEFKOW: Absolutely, thank you very much.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: