Chicago is a town that loves its meat. Back in the day, beef was one of the things that made Chicago famous and the city’s steakhouses still exalt that reputation. In recent years, however, pork seems to have taken a bit of a lead. One of the most amazing of the pork-centric events hosted in Chicago each year is Cochon555. Going on its sixth year, Cochon 555 presented by Goose Island Beer Co., is the nation’s premier culinary tour touting the benefits of eating heritage breed pigs.
This year’s Chicago winner was Chef Tim Graham of Travelle. He was crowned the Prince of Porc on Sunday, April 13 at the Renaissance Blackstone.
This year’s competing chefs included Host Chef Cory Morris of Mercat a la Planxa, Abraham Conlon of Fat Rice, Giuseppe Tentori of GT Fish & Oyster, Ryan McCaskey of Acadia and Tim Graham of Travelle. They battled it out by preparing show-stopping dishes using whole heritage-breed pigs from snout to tail for a crowd of pork-loving gourmands. The winning menu included Piri-Piri Pork Belly with Smoked Pineapple and Ramps; a delightful Country Pate and Rosemary Loin Muffuletta; a Chermoulah Taco with Radish Tzatziki; a bowl of Blood Mole Soup crowned with Head Cheese; finished with a Candlelit Curry Rillette and Cracklin’ Jacks.
A pack of notable judges, including Andrew Zimmerman, Cosmo Goss and Paul Kahan, had the arduous task of selecting the ultimate winner to be crowned Prince of Porc. Chef Tim will go on to compete against the other 9 cities’ winners in the Grand Cochon at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen in June. The winner will be deemed the “King or Queen of Porc”and will win a four-day wine excursion to Rioja, Spain’s most prominent wine region.
“Returning to Chicago is always an honor especially with the esteemed group of champion chefs, judges, friends, partners,” said Cochon founder Brady Lowe. “The competition though friendly yielded many tasty and wonderful bites. While Tim walked away with the win, the real winners of the event are the family farms raising heritage breed pigs.”
The tour’s official cocktail competition, Punch Kings, featured Breckenridge Bourbon in bowls of boozy punch created by Chicago barkeeps. This year’s winner, Jennifer Fink of Fat Rice, created a cocktail with bourbon, mixed tea shrub, spiced coco-pandan syrup, Royal Combier and brandy, to take home the $1,000 bottle of Breckenridge Reserve. The Pop-Up Butcher Shop, led by Rob Levitt from The Butcher & Larder, raised $861 for the volunteering students of Kendall College and Le Cordon Bleu.
In addition to the 30 chef-prepared dishes, guests experienced Goose Island’s vintage ales, Hudson Valley Foie Gras, a beef tartare bar by Brian Ahern of Boeufhaus, an ice cream social with James Beard Award-winning Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, miniature mason jars filled with Manhattan cocktails and endless amounts of Prosciutto di Parma perfectly sliced on a Berkel. The crowd ended the night in true Asian Speakeasy with a 6th heritage breed pig prepared by Patrick Sheerin of Trencherman, and a lively after party at Mercat a la Planxa.
Since its launch in 2009, Cochon 555 and its programs have supported responsible family farming across the country by allowing 50,000 people to taste heritage pigs and by donating more than $300,000 to charities and more than $500,000 directly to great farmers across the country. For more details about the events, visit www.cochon555.com or follow @cochon555 on Twitter.
All photos courtesy of Galdones Photography/COCHON555.