Yesterday I had the great privilege of going to Cochon 555, which took over the space in the beautifully renovated St. Vibiana's church in downtown Los Angeles. Five heritage pig farmers and five vintners were paired with five local chefs:
Octavio Becerra of Palate Food + Wine / Berkshire Pig from ReRide Ranch
Chad Colby of Mozza / Hampshire Pig from Hopkins Hog Farm
Tim Goodell of Public Kitchen + Bar / Spotted Poland China Pig from Hopkins Hog Farm
Ben Ford of Ford's Filling Station / Hereford Pig from Hopkins Hog Farm
Joshua Whigham of Bazaar / Red Wattle Pig from Walnut Keep Farm
Utilizing all parts of the pig, these rockstar chefs were challenged to create a feast for 400 attendees, who would then cast their vote alongside a selected panel. The winning chef of the Los Angeles event would be competing for one of ten spots at the The Grand Cochon throw down at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen in June.
Before we were allowed inside the event, vendors set up outside and we were treated to wine and cheese, oysters on the half shell, a butchering demo by butchers Erika Nakamura and Amelia Posada of Lindy + Grundy, and some simple appetizers before the big feast.
|View of St. Vibiana's|
|Erica Nakamura on the left, Amelia Posada on the right giving a butchering demo.|
|Outside atmosphere...what a gorgeous day...|
This event was for the true pork lover. I very much appreciate when chefs use every last part of the animal to create meals, and that's what this event was all about. I think people are becoming more open to what was once thought of as bizarre food, such as dishes containing offal. Now you see top chefs coming up with inventive ways of preparing innards or glands and people pay top dollar for the fine dining experience. Think of how amazing eating out would be if everyone in the country was this adventurous with food! Baby steps.
Each chef/restaurant set up shop inside the church and lines for the tastings were long. But well worth it.
We started with Joshua Whigham who heads the kitchen at Bazaar in the SLS Hotel.
Here, among other dishes, he was serving pork sausage with a cream sauce along with a cream croquette.
Delicious, but we soon found that other chefs were doing more elaborate tastings... like next door at Public Bar + Kitchen with chef Tim Goodell. His line was long.
Look at this gorgeous plate!!!
|I thought I'd taken a picture of the menu here at Public (for whom I voted) so I could later dish about the food, but I didn't...I apologize! And it happened to be the favorite tasting plate of 4 of 5 people in our group. You idiot, Maya!|
The master, above, hard at work. Along with help from his team.
What I found to be a little disturbing was a pig that was on display on the altar, behind the butchering competition. Yeah, I get that we're sacrificing pigs for the event, but was that really necessary?
These butchers, staged with the altar behind them, were given 40 minutes to cut up half of a pig, and another 20 minutes to freestyle the head (of the pig). They were then judged on their cuts.
|Brady Lowe (in black), who started Cochon 555 in 2008, in front of the swine shrine, kicking off the butchering competition.|
|This young lad, Tim Havidic, from Lindy + Grundy, can't be older than 21. He actually helped me 3 weeks ago when I bought some lamb at their new store that's awesome and then some. Go Tim!|
As the butchers were doing their thing, we wandered to the next station, where Chef Octavio Becerra of Palate Food + Wine was dishing up his creations.
A closer look because it's so fun to look at!
Then over at Mozza, Chef Chad Colby did an impressive Porchetta, along with shank and trotter stewed gigante beans, 10 hour roasted shoulder with cracklings, mortadella dogs and a simple salad. Great, but I don't think he should've won the competition. Oh, yeah, Chad Colby is going to Aspen in June. We all thought (well, our group anyway) Tim Goodell of Public Kitchen + Bar should've won...
Our last stop was at Ford's Filling Station headed by Chef Ben Ford. I was stuffed and didn't think I could eat anymore, so I was kind of glad Ben was starting to run out of food. But we did manage to eat a few dishes here...
|Chef Ben Ford is at the end of the table with the goatee.|
|Scrapple with Broken Yolk and Candied Bacon|
Holy pork balls was the scrapple delicious.
At the end of the tasting competition, as if we weren't all gluttonous enough, Chef Neal Fraser, who will open his Grace restaurant at St. Vibiana's later this year, treated everyone with a whole pig roast. I asked him exactly how he roasted these pigs in case I wanted to do it myself (my boyfriend just bought a smoker, yay!) and he told me he'd smoked these pigs at 240 degrees fahrenheit for 7.5 hours using Oak wood. Good to know.
|Chef Neal Fraser on the very left|
I can't believe people were still hungry and in line for more! Ok, I tasted a small portion because how could I not? It was deliciously tender and moist, but I could hardly taste the smokey flavor. I'm not complaining, just taking note that maybe Oak isn't the wood for me. Maybe I'll get my boyfriend to try Apple wood. Mmm.
Thank you, Brady Lowe, for creating this pork phenomenon. I will definitely go again next year, with my foodie friends in tow, but maybe you could lower the price of tickets. Chef Chad Colby, we wish you all the best at the Grand Cochon competition in June! And Tim Goodell, I've never been to your restaurant, Public Kitchen + Bar, so expect me in about a week, which will be how long it'll take to work up an appetite after yesterday's pig out.