Photos courtesy Tastemade

The Po’Boy Battle Cry

In anticipation of the 2014 matchup between Ohio State and Virginia Tech at The Horseshoe, Marcus Meacham wanted to send a message. He had been tabbed to throw down in a tailgate grilling contest held by a TV show called The Grill Iron at campuses across the country, and he embraced the competitive spirit by taking direct aim at a Virginia staple: the shrimp po’boy.

In an email to the show’s director 11 days before the big game, Chef Meach explained that while Virginia is known for “bomb-ass po’boys,” they could still use “a little more ass,” which he would be happy to provide on behalf of the Midwest at the Ohio Stadium tailgate on game day. “I am going to take their beloved shrimp po’boy and open-handed slap it right in the mouth,” he wrote.

When The Grill Iron crew arrived to film at Kraft House No. 5 in Powell, he showed off his kitchen kingdom before taking them on a tour of some of the places where he sourced ingredients for his deconstructed shrimp po’boy dish. First they stopped at North High Brewing to talk with owner Gavin Meyers about the specialty beer he’d created for Meacham to use in braising a hefty slab of Benton’s bacon. Afterwards they walked to Middle West Spirits to grab some OYO Michelone Reserve bourbon to use in the shrimp marinade—first sampling a bit of the product to assure its quality, of course.

“I am going to take their beloved shrimp po’boy
and open-handed slap it right in
the mouth.”

Two days later it was off to the game, where the tailgate was in full swing. He fired up the grill after soaking in the atmosphere—Meacham has adopted his newfound home and team, but he’s a native of Houston and had never been to The Shoe on game day. He braised the bacon in apple, onion, and the specialty brew, which gave it an extra dimension of smoke and sweetness. He roasted garlic bread crostini and grilled massive shrimp marinated in OYO and honey. Finally, he created a Cajun remoulade from Ohio sweet corn, and then he plated the whole deconstructed sandwich along with arugula, red bell pepper, and fried chicken skin crumbles.

With all due respect to game day brats and burgers, to hell with brats and burgers.

Though Ohio State went on to lose a heartbreaker that night, Chef Meacham represented for the Buckeye state in episode one, the show’s pilot. Meanwhile the crew from The Grill Iron moved on, winding its way through 12 other hotbeds of cuisine and college football, from Los Angeles to Austin to Tuscaloosa.

Ohio State turned its season around and eventually won the national championship over the Oregon Ducks. Just one week later Meacham arrived in Santa Monica to attempt to win The Grill Iron’s inaugural tailgating title against Penn State’s Rick DeShantz and Eric Ferguson—from Oregon. Chef Meach returned to the flavor he loves: bacon. Again he braised it in the specialty North High brew, and this time it complemented his “King Kong” scallops seared in butter. A grated sweet potato hash formed the base of the dish, surrounded by Brussels sprouts crisped in bacon fat and covered in an Ohio glaze of molasses, OYO bourbon, honey, urfa pepper, maple, and chili flakes. He placed the scallop on top while piercing one of its edges with a vertical sliver of candied Benton’s country ham, like a battle flag in conquered territory.

The fans at the competition awarded Meacham the trophy, and the show—created by online video network Tastemade—was picked up by the Cooking Channel and nominated for a James Beard Award. The crew’s main office displays an Ohio-shaped cutting board, which Meacham signed “Love you guys,” right next to his original email promising to stake a new claim to Virginia’s beloved sandwich.

The Buckeyes had to wait until this season to exact their revenge on Virginia Tech, but they did so with authority at the beginning of September. Hopefully the team ate some bomb-ass po’boys at the victory meal—Ohio officially owns that cuisine now.

To view episodes of The Grill Iron, check TV listings or go to www.tastemade.com/shows/the-grill-iron.

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