If you eat pasta like it’s a competitive sport, this online macaroni and cheese bracket is for you.
Casey Corn, a Greenpoint-based chef and food anthropologist launched March Macness in 2020, a tumultuous time to really start any project, digital or otherwise. This year, the digital competition is back, with even heartier macs, bigger prizes and lots to look forward to.
“My background is really in bringing people together through food,” Corn said. The Los Angeles native grew up with California cuisine, “a mashup of flavors and fresh produce,” she explained. Pre-pandemic, she’d travel the world and learn about different flavors and techniques, many of which she’d bring back to the food brands she works with and the food blog she runs out of her Greenpoint kitchen. Now, much of her cooking is memory-based, which is impressive, if you look at the span of global dishes on her Instagram.
So what is March Macness? It’s all about connecting people through food, Corn describes. In the past, she hosted popular six-course mac and cheese dinners, and wanted to bring her carb-loving followers a virtual feast. Plus, she has a love of food puns, which lead to her turning March Madness, into a mac and cheese competition.
In 2020, when the OG March Madness was cancelled due to the pandemic, Corn was posting her 32 original mac and cheese dishes on Instagram, breaking them up into four divisions and encouraging followers to create a bracket, while voting on their favorites for weeks.
This Sunday at 1 p.m., she’ll be hosting a live seeding on Instagram, announcing 2021’s March Macness, pairing up the teams (mac and cheese dishes) within their divisions (international, sandwiches, American food, wildcard). Followers can all download a bracket, fill it out, and submit it to Corn.
For the first two weeks of march, Instagrammers can vote on their favorite of 31 new mac and cheese dishes, plus last year’s champion, Cacio e Pepe mac and cheese. A few new dishes include a cheesesteak mac and cheese, a Cobb salad mac, and a jalapeño popper mac.
“They’re all over the place,” Corn laughs. Whoever’s bracket is closest to predicting the top macs will win a “fairly epic prize package” from sponsors including Sfoglini, Acme smoked fish, Murray’s cheese and many more local and global food brands. The more participants, the more the prize packages can grow.
Some lucky neighbors may have already tasted Corn’s contestants: Hundreds of pounds of mac and cheese tests have ended up in the North Brooklyn Community Fridge. “It’s the perfect opportunity to give back,” Corn said of her regular mac and cheese drop offs to the area. “It’s safe and I can contribute mac and cheese to people in need.”
While Corn doesn’t post her original mac and cheese recipes — she’s holding out for an official March Macness cookbook — followers can find her classic mac and cheese recipe on her website. Her best mac and cheese making advice: “There’s no such thing as a healthy mac and cheese.” Use a lot of fat, high quality pasta, and throw that stovetop mac under a broiler for just a few minutes. “It needs that crispy top to make it perfect,” Corn said.