The international cooking competition Cochon555 has become an annual tradition in LA, and this year’s sold-out event at the Viceroy Hotel took the obsession with nose-to-tail heritage pork consumption to new levels. As per tradition, many of the chefs went highly experimental in their desire to outdo each other. Others stuck to their guns and offered simple, tasty bites. And although San Diego’s Chef Brian Redzikowski ultimately took home the prize, all of the competitors brought something interesting to the table.
Redzikowski’s championship menu included a truly impressive Pho dumpling with Vietnamese herbs, served steaming hot, the adorable Pig Mac Bao with pork belly, lettuce, pickle and “special sauce,” and a budino studded with crispy pig skin. Sammy Monsour of Preux and Proper had the feel of a country BBQ with killer beans and frito pies. Chef Hugo Bolanos went all-in for sausages and charcuterie. Otium’s Chef Thomas Bille had the menu I’d be most likely to cross town to order again, with pork belly in a luscious strawberry mole, a sushi-style pork tataki, and good old al pastor tacos, made exciting by quality meat. Meanwhile, chef Lord Maynard Llera of Mason took the most intense, nothing-left-behind approach of the group, with delicacies like blood sausage and pork-liver sauce that showed an enthusiastic embrace of the core concept.
There were memorable appearances from non-competitors too: fried pork from Bourbon Steak in Glendale, a truly magnificent and vertigo-inducing selection of cheese from Cypress Grove and DTLA Cheese, yummy pates from Trois Petit Cochons, and desserts courtesy of Mike’s Pies of Long Beach. Multiple vineyards were pouring, with samplings from Silver Oaks, Chateau D’Eclans and Twomey among our favorites. Pick of the day goes to Antica wines of Napa, who came along with Tartare Bar, a new project from Hinoki and the Bird chef Brandon Kida. The particular pairing of the cab with a tartare bite was one of the best things consumed on the premises all day, and their Cabernet became my go-to to go with the robust dishes being served up as the competition drew to a close.