11 Chefs to Compete for the Grand Cochon (Pig) Crown

Chefs will use every part of the pig to create their exotic and tasty dishes for judges and spectators. ( Cochon 555 )

Organizers say it’s the “most talked about culinary tour in the country.” That may be right, based on the number of people who show up at the final event.

This September 30 in Chicago at City Winery, eleven winning chefs from cities across the U.S. and Canada will compete for the ultimate prize of the “King or Queen of Pork.” That date will also mark the 10th anniversary of Cochon555’s first chef competition in Atlanta.

Organizers say it started with a simple idea: “Let’s start a conversation about how our food is raised and connect stakeholders in the industry more directly.”

This food festival features heritage breed pig farmers, chefs and wine makers. Breeds include Berkshire, Red Wattle, Duroc, wild boar and some that are more exotic.

Everything But the Squeal
Created in 2008 in response to the lack of education around heritage breed pigs, Cochon555 is a “nose-to-tail culinary event dedicated to supporting family farmers and educating buyers about the agricultural importance of eating heritage breed pigs, some of which are on critical watch lists,” the group’s website says. “The meat they produce is recognized for its superior flavor, texture, appearance, and nutritious qualities. At all events, we source only the highest quality ingredients and products available.”

Some of those points may be debatable, but anything that celebrates pork and how to prepare it is good for the industry.

More than a hundred-plus food enthusiasts, including cooks, chefs, restaurant and bar owners, renowned sommeliers and barkeeps can be found working together at any of the regional events held throughout the country.

“We work with every type of restaurant and bar imaginable – from farm-to-table to Michelin star - and all participating chefs share one core value: they source products responsibly,” the Cochon website states. “Our goal is to buy and promote the ‘best heritage breed pigs’ from farmers doing it the ‘right way.’ Why? Because heritage breed pigs can't be raised in commodity settings.”

The last time I checked, Durocs were at least one “heritage” breed that is used in thousands of commercial operations. Some of the others could be used, if they had a few more productivity traits.

“Bottom line, we are educating the nation one bite at a time and creating a safer food future to be shared with our children,” the website says. “Your support benefits our foundation project, Piggy Bank, a start-up farm in Missouri that serves as a kickstarter for new family farms and a safety net for those in the wake of a disaster (fire, flood, and disease).

Maybe if we decide to raise pigs again, we’ll see if that kickstarter can give us a hand. It would be interesting to see what the qualifications entail.

In the meantime, you can get tickets to the final event or  learn more at: http://cochon555.com/us-tour/2018-grand-cochon/