"Bonnie Mack was a true legend. People would stop by at Blues City Café on Beale Street just to shake the chef's hand and in return receive a warm welcome and a big smile. Chef Mack and Blues City Café are synonymous," says Doug Gordon, the restaurant's operations manager. "It's really hard to find words that describe how great a loss his death is to the café, to his family, and to the people who knew him."
Bonnie Mack passed away on Sunday, August 13th, at age 66.
"He told us one day that he started cooking when he was too little to reach the top of the stove," Gordon recalls. "He's originally from Arkansas, and his mom and dad had a restaurant that catered to sharecroppers."
Mack was working at Doe's Eat Place in Little Rock before he came to Memphis in the early 1990s. The Memphis Doe's Eat Place on Beale was then bought by investors and became Blues City Café. Mack was on board from the get-go and made his mark with a menu that wowed tourists and locals alike.
Mack cooked for presidents, rock stars, and movie stars. He's been featured on Bobby Flay's show on the Food Network and the Travel Channel's A Taste of America. And he's appeared in several national food magazines, such as Bon Appetit and Southern Living.
"I've just gotten to know Chef Mack in the past year and a half, but there was never anything unfamiliar about him," says Jeff "Goose" Goff. "He'd always walk in here with a big smile on his face. You'd never hear a bad word. He truly was the face of Blues City Café."
This Sunday, Anshei Sphard-Beth El Emeth Congregation will host the ASBEE-Kroger Kosher BBQ Contest & Festival. No pork, though, because no matter how you rub, baste, smoke, or grill it, pork will never be kosher. These barbecuers will be using beef.
The first Kosher BBQ Contest was held in 1989 after several members of the Anshei Sphard Congregation felt left out of the Memphis In May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. They decided that beef was the way to go.
However, simply substituting beef for pork won't make a barbecue contest kosher. The beef has to be kosher, the ingredients have to be kosher, and the grills and cooking utensils have to be kosher. "Typically, we ask the competing teams to give us a list of the ingredients they need, and we'll buy them," says Alan Harkavy of Anshei Sphard.
This year, teams will compete for best ribs, best brisket, best sauce, best beans, best booth and best booth name, and overall grand champs. So, mark your calendar if you want to see some of the long-standing competitors, such as Adam's Ribs, the Holy Smokers, or the Three Briskateers, fire it up.
ASBEE-Kroger Kosher BBQ Contest & Festival, Sunday, August 27th, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Anshei Sphard-Beth El Emeth Congregation, 120 E. Yates N. (682-1611).
No time for lunch? Surely, you have a few minutes to spare. At Celtic Crossing, you can get lunch in about seven minutes for $7, including soda and tax.
- Justin Fox Burks
- Celtic Crossing
If you make it by in the next couple weeks, you can enter to win a trip for two to Ireland. The winners of the trip will be announced during the Cooper-Young Festival on September 18th.
Celtic Crossing, 903 S. Cooper (274-5151)