A Duke’s Story: Ben Knight’s Love Affair with Mayo

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Viewers of “A Chef’s Life” know that there may be no bigger fan of mayonnaise than Vivian’s husband, Ben Knight. In episode 10 of season four, Vivian staged a blind taste test of various mayonnaise brands. Chef & the Farmer staff dipped their spoons and tasted, and competed to see who could identify them. While the taste test was a lot of fun, it also revealed Ben’s deep love of mayonnaise, like when he sneaked another tablespoonful or dipped a piece of bread full on into the mayonnaise jar and headed back to the kitchen to find a slice of ham for a snack. We spoke to Ben about how he developed his love of mayonnaise and Vivian couldn’t help but chime in at the beginning of our conversation. 

Q: What kind of mayonnaise did you eat growing up?

Ben: I was a Midwest and West Coast kid because my mother lived in Chicago and my dad lived in Sacramento. My dad did Best Foods, which is the West Coast brand of Hellemans. When I was in Chicago, we did Hellemans. Duke’s isn’t available in either of those markets. So when I moved to North Carolina and Vivian introduced me to it, I switched — as any true mayonnaise lover would. 

Vivian: He was a Hellemans’ eater before. I probably put Duke’s on a tomato sandwich. Ben had not only never tasted Duke’s before, he had never even had a tomato sandwich before. It was a double love whammy!


Q:What are some of your favorite ways to enjoy mayonnaise?

Ben: I think this story characterizes my love for mayonnaise. My dad was a big sandwich guy and he puts mayonnaise on all his sandwiches. When I was growing up — even when we had corned beef or pastrami — he put mayonnaise on it. Now growing up as a Jew in Chicago, that’s like a cardinal sin. My family would always give me a hard time about putting mayonnaise on my corned beef when I was a kid.  

I cooked a lot when I was in third, fourth and fifth grade because I was a latchkey kid. I put mayonnaise in the baked beans. I liked it on my hot dogs, which is also as a Chicago kid a big no-no. I love it on a bologna sandwich. When we would make tuna fish, it was probably 50-50 fish to mayo. Then after we had pork roast, my dad would make pork roast salad, which is kind of like chicken salad; it’s basically all mayonnaise. My stepmother would steam artichokes and we would have it with butter and mayonnaise. 

I just loved it. I always put too much on my sandwiches, always licked the knife, always stuck it back in for a little extra.


Q: As a mayonnaise lover, Thanksgiving — or any celebration featuring roast turkey — must be one of your favorite holidays?

Ben: Nothing goes better with mayonnaise than turkey. This is one of my favorite things to do although I haven’t done this in a while. When I was a teenager, I would open up the mayonnaise jar and I would dip the leftover pieces of turkey into the mayonnaise jar. It’s soooo good!


Ben’s Roast Pork Salad

Ben’s dad would make this salad from the leftovers of roasted center cut pork loin with a thick fat cap. His family made their own seasoned salt. You can substitute Lawry’s or make your own using this simple recipe (2 tablespoons kosher salt, 2 teaspoons sugar, ½ teaspoon paprika, ¼ teaspoon turmeric, ¼ teaspoon onion powder, ¼ teaspoon garlic powder, ¼ teaspoon black pepper, ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper and ¼ teaspoon cornstarch.) 

3 cups medium diced leftover roast pork loin
½ cup finely diced celery
½ cup finely diced red onion
¼ cup finely diced dill pickle
1 tablespoon finely diced jalapeno slices, or more to your preference
¾ cup mayonnaise, such as Duke’s 
1 teaspoon seasoned salt, like Lawry’s

Combine pork, celery, red onion, pickle and jalapeno in a medium bowl. Add mayonnaise and seasoned salt. Stir to fully combine.

Yield: about 4 cups

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