Grand Cochon: The Glory of Pig

Pork hangover… That’s a real thing if you ask me. How do I know? Grand Cochon. The flagship event of Cochon555’s weekend, Grand Cochon is a no-holds-barred throwdown of 14 chefs competing for the King of Porc crown with their best bites from across the country. And this year this homage to all things heritage pig was held in Chicago, for the first time mind you, and I went. I mean, someone had to take one for the team and taste all of the delicious things! And I am nothing if not a team player.

Hundreds of pork-loving fans gathered at Morgan MFG to indulge and imbibe. Grand Cochon was the hottest gourmand ticket in town, and rightfully so. It was a veritable cornucopia of food and drink. No one walked away hungry. Some of us staggered home in bacon-infused cocktail-lubricated coma… I mean, so I’ve heard from a friend!

The competition announced itself blocks away with mouthwatering scents of sizzling meat and wood smoke. We came prepared, having fasted for two days. Hey, it’s not our first rodeo, folks! We knew it would be a marathon of pork goodness, and then some! Having attended various Cochon555 events in years past, we though we were ready. Boy, were we ever wrong. Grand Cochon is called Grand for a reason. Representing an array of cultures, cities and cooking styles, each of the 14 chefs were tasked with preparing at least three bites of heritage breed pig from the whole-animal menu they created to win in their respective cities. In addition to this vast porcine selection, the event included artisan wines, boutique spirits, handcrafted cocktails, and some of the best cheeses, charcuterie, sweets, and pop-up food experiences the country has to offer.

We loved the Tartare Bar with  Denver’s Josh Pollack of Rosenberg’s, whose outstanding beef and salmon tartares were a nice respite from from all the porkiness. “Dirty Steak” Tomahawk Bar led by Cory Morris of Chicago’s Boleo offered yet another carnivore alternative.  Perfect Puree’s #SprinkleBae Dessert Experience with Celebrity Pastry Chef Zac Young of NYC, a special burger pop-up from Shake Shack, a delicious bite from Cheesemonger Invitational Summer 2017’s Winner Jordan Edwards of Pastoral Artisan featuring Cypress Grove; and a sophisticated scotch experience in the Glenfiddich Experimental Dome all came out to play. Did I mention the indulgence?

Rachel Driver-Speckan of City Winery Chicago brought home the trophy as the winner of the Somm Smackdown featuring five sommeliers from around the country, and James Wampler of Proof & Provision in Atlanta took top honors at Punch Kings ”Last Call,” a punch competition. Yes, there were also wine and cocktail competitions. What would a party be without those, amirite?!

2017 King of Pork Chef Jonathan Granada

This year’s King of Porc hails from LA. Grand Cochon winner Jonathan Granada of Otium prepared his show-stopping dishes with a Gloucester Old Spot breed of pig raised by Stepladder Creamery & Farm. Chef Jonathan created a winning menu of three delicious bites including Confit Pork Belly with Caviar, Fried Sunchoke, and Stinging Nettle Bechamel; Crepinette with Truffle, Celery Root, Black Rice Chicharron and Parmesan; and to close, Pork Shoulder Vin Jaune and Potato Fondant.

Fan Favorite Chef Ricardo Jarquin 

While LA took home the crown, we’d be remiss not to throw out a few honorable mentions of our favorite porky bites. Chicago’s own Ricardo Jarquin of Travelle brought the heat with his outstanding Asian-inspired pork dumpling. Nashville chef Kaelin Ulrich Trilling stole our hearts and palates with a stellar pork taco topped with chicharrones. And chef Grae Nonas of Minneapolis made us swoon with utter perfection of his  roasted whole fresh ham in natural jus. Sometimes less truly is more.

House of Angostura

And for a little sample of Trinidad flavors we have to mention a bite that did not compete, brought to the event by House of Angostura (yes, the bitters): Angostura braised pork tongue, with charred scallion, mutzu apple and finger lime. The dish, a Baptiste & Bottle culinary creation, incorporated Angostura aromatic bitters into the recipe. Did you know that you can use bitters in food? We sure didn’t. However, we did consume plenty of Angostura tiki cocktails at Grand Cochon because bitters settle the stomach, obviously!

“It was an honor to bring these incredibly talented chefs from all over the country to Chicago to support the good food movement,” says Brady Lowe, Founder of Cochon555. “A big thanks to all our hosting chefs and partners in Chicago, and a much-deserved congratulations to our 2017 King of Porc, Chef Jonathan Granada of Otium. Together, we’re putting the spotlight on education, responsible agriculture, and the amazing health and social benefits of working with heritage breeds from family farmers. We were so proud to have Chicago as the centerpiece of our largest event of the year – it truly is the country’s premiere dining city. With events like this, we continue to put the spotlight on heritage species and responsible agriculture through our work with amazing chefs, sponsors, farmers and their teams.”

Cochon555 pork extravaganza benefits the efforts to preserve heritage breeds of pigs (many of which are endangered) and to support the farmers who raise them. It brings awareness and education about slow, clean food to the revelers. We think it is a worthy cause. Stumbling away from the event in a food coma with a box of just butchered Berkshire pork purchased on the way out (for charity, of course!) we couldn’t help but wonder… is pork hangover real and who will get the crown next year? Grand Cochon is called Grand for a reason.


Cochon555 takes place across the nation. Check the website for upcoming events.

The Local Tourist Grand Cochon access for two is courtesy of Solstice PR.

Event photos by Galdones Photography.

Chef photos courtesy of their restaurant websites.






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