The World’s Largest Barbeque August 26, 2013

World's Largest Barbeque

World’s Largest Barbeque (Photos courtesy of Lalo Plascencia)

World's Largest Barbeque

World’s Largest Barbeque

 

If you want to break a Guinness World Record for, let’s say, the World’s Largest Barbeque, where do you start? First, you get as many fans on board as possible. That’s what organizers did in Monterrey, Mexico, and it paid off big time on August 18 when, officially, 45,252 people showed up and chowed down in Parque Fundidora, a park on the grounds of what was for many years a huge smelting company.

The idea started with culinary school ITAB and Cavimex, a company that designs and builds kitchens and also sells equipment. They got plenty of help on board including the Nuevo León Organization for Tourism Development and some of the largest food and drink businesses in Monterrey like HEB grocery stores, Coca Cola, Maseca (tortilla flour) and Bud Light. They named popular singer Joan Sebastian “godfather” of the event. Then they set out to convince regiomontanos (residents of Monterrey) that they should help break the record of 44,158 people set in 1993 in Sydney, Australia.

Lalo Plascencia

Lalo Plascencia

They went to the media—newspapers, TV, radio, Facebook and YouTube. Ticketmaster handled pre-event sales. They recruited big names like Lalo Plascencia who bills himself as a gastronomical investigator. Formally trained as a chef, Plascencia has worked as a journalist and written for magazines. On his website, Nacionalismo Gastronómico, he blogs about a wide variety of food-related topics, often waxing profound.  

For this Carne Asada (Barbeque), Plascencia flew in from his home in Mérida, Yucatán to oversee a line of cooks and report on the event. I asked him to explain the importance of the carne asadas for which regiomontanos are famous. “They’re a way to get together, to connect informally, to make new friends, to strengthen existing friendships. You can resolve political differences, watch a soccer game or simply see relatives and find a calm space before starting the work week.”

Regios are among the biggest consumers of meat in Mexico, so the menu at the World’s Largest Carne Asada included 18 tons of beef and hot dog franks in addition to potatoes, onions, tortillas, salad, salsa and plenty of soft drinks. Beer was available at an extra charge. One-thousand seven hundred grillers supervised by chefs worked 240 grills, each 3 meters long (nearly 10 feet). Note: those numbers are the official ones. Plascencia and others unofficially reported 60,000 people attended and over 300 grills. Undisputedly, at $80 pesos (a little over $6 dollars) for adults, $30 pesos for children (a little over $2 dollars), the outdoor meal with live music on 4 stages was a bargain.

Asked what the greatest challenge of the day was, Plascencia cited working in the heat—temperatures topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit—the sun and the smoke. “Monterrey is hot as is, but beside the grills it was a little inferno where the goal was to break a record.”  

The Carne Asada did have its critics. AnimaNaturalis, an animal rights group criticized sponsors for promoting the consumption of beef in a state where people already eat large quantities which contribute to obesity, heart attacks and cancer. Environmentalists argued that the cattle industry contributes to deforestation, the greenhouse effect and global warming.

On Milenio newspaper’s website, the barbeque had its supporters and critics. One termed the event “bread and entertainment for the happy masses in the Coliseum, oops, the Fundidora.” Another said the organizers should go for the Guinness Record for Environmental Contamination. A third reader suggested the next record attempt should be held in the poorest neighborhoods and try to break the record for the most consumption of tortillas and chile peppers, a reminder that even at $80 pesos, there were plenty of Mexicans who couldn’t afford the event. 

But among the supporters, one woman commented on Terra.com, “Every social class got together, making it a huge act of integration, and I saw something I’d never seen in my 25 years: my father interacting with all the family, playing board games with his granddaughter and talking with everybody.”

Guinness certificate

Guinness certificate

People came—and came and came. At 5:00 p.m., Amanda Mochan, the Guinness auditor aided by 1500 volunteers, officially declared the Australian record broken by Monterrey with an extra 1,094 people.

And what will Plascencia remember most about the exceptional day? The friendships formed and the dream made reality. “The vibe among the helpers was like a carne asada at home but shared with 60,000 other people.”

If you read Spanish, you’ll enjoy Plascencia’s post La carne asada es el pretexto(Barbeque is the Excuse) an account of the day on Animal Gourmet’s website. He is also in the YouTube video link mentioned above.

 

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