If you follow any chefs or foodies on social media, you have probably been seeing pictures of Cochon 555 as it tours the country on its mission to promote heritage breed pigs. Its wild 3-day feast showcases the best local chefs in the area promoting the good food movement. This weekend, Cochon 555 will present dinners on Friday and Saturday nights, plus a culinary competition on Sunday that has local chefs putting it all on the line for bragging rights.
Heritage breeds were popular back when pigs were raised outdoors on family farms. Most Americans have only ever tasted new breeds of CAFO (Confined Animal Feeding Operation) caged pigs. The pork from heritage pigs is more flavorful, more tender, and healthier. The meat is heavily marbled, making it able to sustain high-temperature cooking. Best of all, heritage pigs are raised responsibly, without the heavy use of antibiotics and growth hormones common in big factory farming. This weekend the chefs will be utilizing whole hogs raised on local farms including Cook Pigs Ranch, Walnut Keep, Old Reminisce Farms, DG-Langley Farm, Rainbow Ranch Farms and Marin Sun Farms.
The fun starts on Friday, March 27, with the Chef’s Course Dinner, “Nose to Taco Reception.” The five-course dinner will take place at BS Taqueria where the 2014 “King of Porc” Ray Garcia welcomes guest chefs, “including 2010 “King of Porc” Dave Varley of RN74 in Seattle and LA locals Vartan Abgaryan of Cliff’s Edge, Carlos Salgado of Taco Maria, Roxana Jullapat, formerly of Cook’s County and Cochon 555 founder, Brady Lowe. Over three hours, the chefs will prepare a special meal featuring “high-quality, local ingredients and responsible agriculture.” The dishes will be paired with German wines. ($125 all-inclusive)
Saturday, March 28, BS Taqueria will host Cochon 555’s “Large Format Feast,” a four-course meatfest. Ray Garcia of Broken Spanish and notable steakhouse chefs will present a menu spotlighting family-raised beef and Duroc pork from Creekstone Farms. The meat-off will pit “Big Beef vs. Heritage Pig” against one another to spotlight the growing trend of featuring heritage pork on steakhouse menus. St. Francis Wines and Anchor Distilling will be pouring. ($110 all inclusive)
Cochon 555 goes wild on Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! The main event held at the Viceroy in Santa Monica features five chefs facing off to cook one pig each. In the first corner we have Tony DiSalco of CAST at the Viceroy. He will have home court advantage. In the next corner we have Ricardo Zarate, our local champion of Peruvian cuisine. In the uh, third corner is Kris Morningstar of LA’s up and comer, Terrine. Finally, Steven Fretz of The Church Key will be bringing it. Let’s hope he is also bringing cute airline stewardesses making alcoholic Otter Pops.
In true nose-to-tail style, the chefs will go whole hog on Sunday (I’m sorry, it was too easy), preparing a maximum of six dishes for a crowd of hungry gourmands and celebrated judges. This year’s judges, Ray Garcia, Top Chef Michael Voltaggio of Ink and Pulitzer prize-winning LA Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold, will crown this year’s “King of Porc.” The winner goes on to compete for the title of “King or Queen of Porc” at the tour finale, Grand Cochon at Snowmass/Aspen in June.
Sunday’s guests will enjoy pop-ups Petit Format Bar, Wines from Rioja Tapas Bar, the Mezcal Chupito Bar, the TarTar Bar prepared by Mike Kahikina of Barrel and Ashes (shout out to Rory! -ed.), Bacon Hall of Fame, plus gourmet goodies from Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, Breckenridge Bourbon, Hirsch, Luxardo, DTLA Cheese, Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, Rappahannock Oyster Shelf, Prosciutto di Parma, Black River Caviar, Creminelli, Agromar, and La Brea Bakery.
Whether you want to open your own abattoir, or just practice the art of breaking down big hunks of meat, the the Pop-Up Butcher Shop returns this year with a live butchering demonstration with Nick Scafalbi of Cook’s Family Butcher Shop (with the support of Williams-Sonoma). I’m not sure “live butchering is the right term here, at least I hope not.
There are two ticket levels for Sunday. General admission ($125) offers over 36 dishes prepared from nose to tail, paired with wines, brews and spirits starting at 5PM. VIP guests ($200) are invited to also attend a seminar hosted by Wines of Germany and are granted one hour early access to food, and drink at 4pm, which gives them to opportunity to mix and mingle with notable chefs, judges and media. Both ticket levels include endless food and drink. Everyone is invited to the Cochon 555 After Party at Cast Restaurant.
The mission is explained by Brady Lowe, founder of Cochon 555. “Together, with some of the best chefs and partners in LA, we amplify the conversation of heritage pork, which for many is a ‘gateway meat’ to a larger appreciation of where our food comes from and the people that raise it, leading to more mindful eating.”