Eli's BBQ Creates NFT of a Pulled-Pork Sandwich to Benefit Restaurant Industry

The digital drawing of a pulled-pork sandwich will be auctioned off, with proceeds benefitting those in the food and beverage industry impacted by COVID-19.

click to enlarge A spread of Eli's BBQ dishes, including a pulled-pork sandwich (in the middle) - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
A spread of Eli's BBQ dishes, including a pulled-pork sandwich (in the middle)

One local barbecue purveyor is embracing the digital age. 

Elias Leisring of Eli's BBQ says he has commissioned an NFT — or non-fungible token — of one of his famous pulled-pork sandwiches. The animated artwork, by local artist Jason Mann, "changes as you look at it over time," says Leisring. 

Mann describes the image as "exploring the geometric shapes and colors of the slaw and pork with a Cubist eye, morphing through layers of my collaged paintings into an homage of Marcel Duchamp’s 'Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2,' Pablo Picasso’s 'Guernica' and the 'Mona Lisa.'”

"We decided on an NFT because we wanted the project to be permanent, one-of-a-kind and timeless," Leisring tells CityBeat. "We also wanted to support the art community. NFT's allow the artist to keep and collect payment on their art work in perpetuity. If you think of an NFT as a permanent web address that points to a particular digital anything, digital art, music or video file, etc., it’s an easy way to think about it. But the NFT is a digital token, sorta like a one-of-a-kind digital trading card."

The smart contract for the work was written by Tyler Tillinghast.

The barbecue sandwich NFT will be auctioned off on OpenSea, with proceeds from the sale going to the national LEE Initiative's Restaurant Worker Relief Program, to help those in the food and beverage industry impacted by COVID.

"It’s important for us to help the restaurant industry however we can," Leisring says. "Many of our friends, peers and colleagues have been destroyed by the COVID restrictions on restaurants."

Leisring is hoping to auction the artwork off for $5,000. Artist Mann will also receive a percentage of the sale, and another percentage of any future sales; Leisring compared the work's unique blockchain to a sort of music license.

The auction goes live at 10:17 a.m. Saturday (April 17) and will last seven days. You can bid at opensea.io/collection/theartofmann-1.

NFTs are the next big thing in pop culture. For example, musician/nymph Grimes made about $6 million selling NFTs of her art; and football player Tom Brady is launching his own NFT company where fans can buy one-of-a-kind sports memorabilia. In March, Pizza Hut released an NFT "pizza slice," which sold for more than $8,000.

And if you're still confused about what an NFT is — or want to learn more about words like "blockchain" and "crypto" — Wikipedia has a pretty easy-to-understand entry. The Daily Show's Trevor Noah made an explainer video as well.

And Saturday Night Live did a musical skit trying to explain NFTs.

This certainly isn't the first novel artwork Eli's has created. Back in 2016, the restaurant printed posters using their barbecue sauce at CityBeat's now-defunct MidPoint Music Festival.

Eli's BBQ won "Best Barbecue" in CityBeat's 2021 Best Of Cincinnati issue.

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