Chef George Zappas recently brought his talents to the field at FC Cincinnati’s TQL stadium, where he manages everything from game day dishes to catering. Zappas, formerly the culinary mastermind behind Orchids at Palm Court, left behind the intimate restaurant setting to serve a stadium of more than 25,000 people, sometimes multiple times each week.
But despite the drastic change, Zappas says the only real difference has been in scale—he’s cooking for a much larger crowd without sacrificing quality. “We’re doing a lot of product in-house,” says Zappas. “It’s really an homage to what we do—a craft of culinary and cooking and making sure as much as we can to differentiate ourselves.”
As you’d expect, Zappas and his team whip up dishes that are worlds away from your average concession fare. The dining experience at TQL Stadium incorporates Cincinnati-inspired dishes and fan favorites like hot dogs, pizza, and grilled cheese—but elevated. Think chicken and tuna poke, smoked brisket nachos, and Margherita pizza. “We’re really focused on dishes being the best that they can be,” says Zappas. “Hot dogs with pork belly… a grilled cheese cart with a grilled peanut butter and jelly, a burger concept with lamb burgers and burgers using Impossible meat. Really giving guests a well-rounded experience.”
Zappas has a talent for elevating dishes to a new level—and this smoked pork banh mi recipe is no exception.
“I tasted the TRUFF spicy mayo and instantly thought: banh mi sandwich,” says Zappas. The recipe calls for a few homemade elements, like pickling your own veggies, but Zappas assures it’s not a difficult task. Just shave them thin and let them sit for a couple days in the fridge. The pickled peppers, carrots, and radishes add freshness and a pop of color to the sandwich. Even better? Use veggies from your home garden.
The secret to this Vietnamese-style dish is in the sauce, thanks to TRUFF‘s spicy mayo, which adds a zing to every bite thanks to red jalapeños and signature black truffle. Slather it on a hearty, local baguette to tie it all together. “If it’s not a baguette, it’s not a banh mi—sorry,” Zappas says. If you want to really be adventurous, Zappas suggests smearing a layer of chicken liver mousse on the sandwich to add a French touch.
And for the inevitable leftovers—or if spicy condiments are just really your jam—a dash of TRUFF‘s spicy mayo is the perfect way to elevate your weekday lunch. Add some spice to your sweet potato fries by using the TRUFF mayo as a dipping sauce, mix into your favorite mac and cheese recipe, or add a dollop on a burger. Consider yourself a true hot sauce connoisseur? Be sure to pick up a bottle of TRUFF‘s original to sprinkle on everything from scrambled eggs to bloody Marys.
Smoked Pork Banh Mi Recipe
4 oz. smoked, shredded pork shoulder (recipe below)
4 pieces of thinly shaved carrot
4 pieces of thinly shaved radish
4 pickled peppers
1 T of TRUFF Spicy Mayonnaise
1 leaf mint, chiffonade
15-20 basil buds/blossoms
1 demi baguette or regular baguette cut to 6 inches
8 lb. boneless pork butt
4 T kosher salt
- Rub the pork butt all the way around with the seasoning and let it sit in the fridge overnight in a glass pan or sheet pan, uncovered.
- Using an electric smoker, smoking grill, or grill with smoke capabilities, smoke the pork butt for 6–8 hours at 265 degrees until the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees.
- Let the pork rest off the heat for 30 minute, covered.
- Shred the pork and then sear in a thick-bottom pan or cast-iron skillet over medium heat to intensify the flavor. Add a splash of water if the heat gets too high or the pork looks like it might dry out a bit.
1 lb. banana peppers, cut thin
4 oz jalapeño peppers, cut thin
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup salt
1 T mustard seeds
1 T dried oregano
- Place cut peppers and smashed garlic into a 32 oz mason jar
- Bring liquid, salt, sugar, spices to a boil and pour over peppers. Seal the jar with a lid. Allow to sit on counter for 1 hour and then place in fridge for at least 5 days. Consume within 30 days.
Building the Sandwich
- Slice the baguette horizontally and leave it hinged. Toast in a pan or under a broiler with a little bit of butter.
- Place warm pork on the baguette, top with vegetables and pickles, then a generous serving of TRUFF spicy mayonnaise. Top with herbs.