Most foodies would agree that "bacon makes everything better." In the case of Cochon555, let's extend that to the entire pig and you'll get some idea of just how unbelievable the event can be for a lover of good pork. On Sunday, April 29 Cochon555 stopped by the Four Seasons in Chicago for a 4th year and stunned the participants with a seemingly-endless array of artisan food, fine wine, and (above all) pork from five different heritage breeds. One attendee I overheard referred to Cochon555 as a "Porkztravaganza" and they were right on the mark.
Cochon555 – five chefs, five pigs, five winemakers – is a one-of-a-kind traveling culinary competition and tasting event to promote sustainable farming of heritage breed pigs. The event travels to 10 cities each year and challenges five local chefs to prepare a menu created from heritage breed pigs, nose-to-tail, for an audience of pork-loving epicureans.
2012 Chicago competing chefs included Carlos Gaytan of Mexique, Danny Grant of RIA and Balsan, Stephanie Izard of Girl and the Goat, Mike Sheerin of Three Floyds, and Jason Vincent of Nightwood. Everyone at the event voted for the "Best Bite of the Day" before the producers combined the consumer votes (51%) with the technical score from the local judges (49%) and announced one chef as the Prince or Princess of Porc.
Based on the voting, the grand winner of Cochon555 Chicago 2012 was Jason Vincent of Nightwood. Vincent won out over the competition with a series of inventive pork dishes, including a puffy "chicharron" made out of whipped pork liver, a ginger blood pudding creme brulee set in a marrow bone, crisp liver with powdered eight-year cheddar, bacon-butterscotch doughnut served with soft scrambled egg and "hollandoink" sauce, and a deep fried pig leg in an apricot barbecue sauce.
Even though the food is the primary focus of the event, the entire concept of Cochon555 is one that is the true winner. Brady Lowe, Founder of Cochon 555 and President & Creative Director of Taste Network, is passionate about increasing awareness of the sources that support a more natural, sustainable food system. He thinks the best way to spread the word is through unique culinary experiences. Says Lowe, “One event cannot change the entire food production system (not yet, anyway), but we can celebrate people who are favorably tilting the scales back towards local producers.” His events draw together top chefs, winemakers, farmers, thought-leaders, foodies, food media and responsible consumers to celebrate artisan foods and producers.
The Chicago event featured the five amazing chefs, of course, but it also featured five incredibly wineries, all of which are family-owned and operated. This year, the wineries included Chase Cellars, Elk Cove, Buty, Yorba Wines and Scholium Project. All of these are extraodinary small producers who focus on sustainability, ecology, and quality.
All of the flatware used at the event was from Birchware a maker of compostable, wooden knives, forks, and spoons. Cochon555 also highlighted local Chicago-area producers including Pastoral, Rob Levitt of Butcher & Larder, and Three Floyd's.
Chef Jason Vincent, the winner of this year's competition, will go on to compete against other regional winners at the finale Grand Cochon event at the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen, June 17, 2012. Mark your calendars and send him a "good luck" message on June 17. You can follow Nightwood Restaurant on Twitter or on Facebook.
For more information on Cochon555, upcoming Cochon555 events, or to contact any of the vendors who sponsor and participate in the event, you can visit the websit at www.Cochon555.com. If you love food and wine, don't miss out on next year's competition in Chicago!