Page 76 - Cityview May-June 2017
P. 76

The phrase you hear Allan Benton use again and again to describe his product is “world-class.” That’s not self- aggrandizement; it’s aspirational. He uses it when talking
about everything from the quality of the hogs he purchases to the excellence of his employees.
Keith Norris: Did you change the way you make or cure your product once you started becoming popular with different chefs?
Allan Benton: When I got ready to
go down to the Symposium, I’d never done a country ham tasting before.
The Southern Foodways Alliance—if you’re into food, there is no better. It’s an incredible crowd, the best group
I’ve ever been around in my life. I was going to take 18 to 22-month stuff down there. I had three employees at the time and none of them liked the older stuff that I made.
KN: Why not?
AB: They like that young, mild stuff. I told them “well, I think this is what country ham is supposed to be, and this is what I’m going to take down there,” and they said, “you can take it but they won’t eat it.” I said, “if they
Over the years, some things have changed: he’s gotten better at mak-
ing hams and smoking bacon. He’s improved his recipes and refined his technique and constantly sought out the best pork he could get his hands on. What hasn’t changed is the spirit of the place and the character of Allan Benton.
Though he had been quietly perfect- ing his product for 30 years and was already on the menu at Blackberry Farm, Allan Benton made his debut on fine dining’s national stage in 2003
when he was invited to the 6th annual Southern Foodways Symposium, held in Oxford, MS. That year, the theme was “The Appalachian South,” and country ham was featured. After Benton had accepted the invitation,
he found out he was supposed to cook. He nearly backed out. But they settled on preparing ham and biscuits, went to the event, and had a line of food- ies, including more than a few chefs, backed up at their table all night. From there, the popularity of his hams and bacon spread all over the world.
around town
keith norris
Allan Benton
For nearly 44 years, Allan Benton has been perfecting the art of curing and smoking pork at Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Hams.
74 MAY  JUNE 2017
Photograph by Nathan Sparks

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