Cochon 555: A Los Angeles food and wine event that honors the Heritage Breed Pig
A toast to Cochon 555, all the chefs, wineries, and
Heritage Breed Pig Farmers!
You have redeemed my love for pork!
The Cochon 555, a cooking competition, launched itself in Los Angeles for the first time over the weekend. The event was held inside Vibiana; a century old Catholic cathedral (Cathedral Chapel of St. Vibiana) reincarnated into an entertainment venue in downtown Los Angeles. Bradey Lowe, the founder of the Cochon 555, made a huge statement to Los Angeles by advocating for sustainable heritage pig farming throughout the United States. He also gave one heck of a Foodie event that featured 5 Chefs, 5 pigs, and 5 wines. There was also a Butcher competition and an extravagant Pig Roast fit for royalty if Los Angeles had their own royal couple. The true spirit of the evening, however, was tasting a variety of Heritage breed pigs and recognizing the community of farmers who raised them.
Chef Chad Colby of Mozza had an amazing array of dishes made from Hampshire pig breed from Hopkins Hog Farms in Arizona. Colby made various palatable pates and charcuteries with pickled seasonal veggies. He also roasted a beautiful pork roast.
Chef Joshua Whigham of The Bazaarserved intricate dishes prepared from a Red Wattle pig breed from Northern California’s Walnut Keep Farm & Vineyard that were quite fashionable in a Spanish tapas style. But of all the things that I loved from Chef Whigham were the simple Kettle-corn style Chicharrones and walnuts bits served in a plain brown paper bag. This sweet concoction has changed my views on the savory chicharrones. A talented chef + Chicarrones = A new tasty snack food.
As the clock ticked into the evening and the music began to beat, each chef worked feverishly to feed the hungry crowd. Luckily, the limited attendance and high ticket price kept the long lines tolerable. The wines were okay, but I found that neither of wines from the five wineries paired perfectly with the dishes from each chef. If I had to say which wine that I like the most, it was the magnificent Zinfandel from Turley Wine Cellars, who coincidentally was a sponsor who attended the event. It was punchy, jammy, and remarkably exquisite.
Chef/Owner Octavio Becerra of Palate Food + Wine tantalized us with dishes made with the milk-fed, acorn and apple eating Berkshire pig from ReRide Ranch in Lake Hughes, California. Having dined at Becerra’s restaurant many times, I know that he’s known for his rendition of a Vietnamese Bahn-mi sandwich stuffed with slices of “slap in your face” Asian inspired pork belly. At Cochon 555, his impressive sandwich, a hot dog croquette, Chinese soup dumpling were dynamite.
I enjoyed the wild mix of dishes from Chef Tim Goodell owner of one of my favorite burger bar, 25 Degrees and his newbie Public Kitchen + Bar, both at The Roosevelt Hotel. He whipped up dishes using a Spotted Poland China pig breed from Hopkins Hog Farm. I loved the Pig’s Head and Trotter Sausage, because of the unique use of cuts that are often discarded, but are they are staples in sausages outside of the U.S. I also enjoyed the cinnamon Pork Fat Berliners with ice cream and sugared chicharrone sprinkles. Goodell was the only chef who offered a dessert made from a Heritage breed pig.
Chef Ben Ford of Ford’s Filling Station prepared dishes with the Hereford pig breed from Hopkins Hog Farm. I enjoyed the dishes from Chef Ford, because he’s a master of gastropub cuisine. However, at Cochon 555, Chef Ford went outside of his comfort zone and presented amazing food. My favorites were the Chile Verde Tacos with Country Ham Cracklings and the Beer Brat Sausage.
The Butchering competition is the first of its kind to hit Los Angeles. It was sort of was a rivalry like the Dodgers versus the Angels. At Cochon 555, it was old school versus new school rivalry between Javier “The Butcher” from Inglewood’s Rocker Bros Meatsand Tim Havidic from L.A’s Lindy & Grundy. Rocker Bros Meats has been a staple of the Los Angeles area for over 45 years. Lindy & Grundy is trendy newbie meat market specializing in local and organic meats.
Both butchers had to hack up a Newman Farms Berkshire Pig breed and prep it up for cooking. So imagine ribs, loin, chops, etc. It was exhilarating to watch the competition, because each butcher were equipped with an arsenal of knives and saws. The winner of the butchering competition was Lindy & Grundy’s squeaky clean Tim Havidic.
Chef Neal Frazier(Grace Restaurant and BLD Restaurant) showed off his version of a Pig Roast by rolling out two roasted Porcelet de Lait pigs from St. Canut Farmsin Quebec, Canada. Frazier roasted these little piggies for seven hours before carving. The meat was superb; ever so tender and juicy with fatty collagen blobs falling from the meat and oozing onto my fingers before hitting the floor. I went back six times to taste different parts of the pig. I don’t think anyone noticed other than a friend of mine and a few chefs.
The evening ended with a chocolate dipped chicharrone dessert and whiskey toast to all the sponsors, volunteers, chefs, wineries and Heritage Pig breeders. The 2011 Cochon 555 winner was Chef Chad Colby of Mozzapictured in the center. What an evening! It was quite the pig out!