A few weekends ago, almost 100 of the nation’s best chefs, professional barbecue teams, and backyard barbecue fanatics gathered in New Orleans to do what they do best—cook some of the most mouthwatering and spicy barbecue in the country. But this was more than a basic cook-off. At the Hogs for the Cause event, each chef had only one goal in mind: to sell the most barbecue to attendees and thus raise the most money to combat pediatric brain cancer. And Royal Sonesta New Orleans Executive Chef Jeff Mattia brought his considerable talent to the fore.

It was all part of the Ben Sarrat, Jr. Cook-Off, presented by the Children’s Hospital of New Orleans. The nonprofit annual event at the Uno Lakefront Arena Grounds raised money through ticket sales, donations, sponsorships, and food sales. Whichever chef sold the most sandwiches got the Crown. Sandwiches were rated in six categories: Whole Hog, Ribs, Pork Butt/Shoulder, Porkpourri, Sauce, and Fan Favorite. The competition was fierce and fun and there were plenty of activities for kids in a festive, fairground atmosphere.

The results were stunning, with $1.3 million raised. “We are so pleased we could be part of this effort to raise money for the Children’s Hospital,” said Chef Mattia. “These kids are fighting for their lives, and we want to do our part to help them win their battle.”

If you want to sample the recipe that Chef entered, you can visit Desire or Le Booze at Royal Sonesta New Orleans. Or … you can prepare it at home as he shares his secret here:

Hogs for Cause - pulled pork sandwich at Desire

BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich

Executive Chef Jeff Mattia, Royal Sonesta New Orleans


10 oz smoked pulled pork (recipe below)
4 oz fried onion strings (recipe below)
2 oz BBQ sauce
1 ea brioche bun

Smoked Pork Butt – Ingredients and Prep:

8 lbs pork butt bone-in
4 oz BBQ rub
1 cup apple juice
1 cup hot water
3 tbsp salt

  1. Cover the meat with BBQ rub and allow to sit for 4-6 hours
  2. Mix together the apple juice, water, and salt until dissolved
  3. Inject the pork with apple juice, salt water solution
  4. Smoke the pork at 200 degrees for 8-10 hours
  5. Pull meat apart and cool in the refrigerator

Fried Onion Strings – Ingredients and Prep:

1 ea onion rings cut 1/8” thickness
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp chopped garlic
1 oz hot sauce (Crystal)
8 oz flour, seasoned with black pepper and salt or Creole spice

  1. Combine the buttermilk, garlic, and hot sauce. Marinade the onions overnight in this mixture.
  2. Remove the onions from the buttermilk and toss in the spiced flour mix. Separating the onions as much as possible.
  3. Deep fry until golden brown and crispy.

Sandwich Preparation:

  1. In a skillet, heat up the smoked pulled pork with BBQ Sauce
  2. Toast the brioche bun on a buttered griddle
  3. Place 10 oz of pulled pork in the center of the bun
  4. Place fried onion strings on top, cover with top bun
  5. Serve with French fries and coleslaw