bourbon chefs

Porcfection

Saturday, May 02, 2015 Michael Shayler

With the Cochon 555 being the first event for me to as cover as a member of Half Stack, it was a little nerve wrecking not knowing what to expect.

Boy did that change in an instant. From the moment you enter, a smokey aroma hits your senses and instant happiness sets in.

They say you get a second chance to make a first impression, and that smell was a sign that i would be a good night.

As smells lured me in every direction I took the easy route and started from the stand closest to the entrance.

The stand I happened to approach first was that of Nicole Pederson. She presented me with a "pickled pig part pani puri popper". It featured various parts of the pig, inside a thin and flaky crisp bowl matched with a Tamarind jelly cilantro that gave both a sweet and sour flavor, leading up to the spice that hit from the Indian spices. If there were any lingering nerves, they quickly vanished as the perfect balance of crunch, sweet and heat took over.

Nicole Pederson's station
image courtesy of The Local Beet

Following my third helping I figured it was time to make my rounds and see what other chef's had to offer.

As i made my rounds, enjoying each savory bite after another, i washed my good eats down with a "Perfect Manhattan". I chose the spicy variety which was made with Hirsch reserve Kentucky bourbon. It was a "perfect" compliment to the pork based dishes.

Two other dishes stood out the most to my taste buds. Thomas Rice and Kurt Guzowski from TeTe Charcuterie presented a Dashi Braised Pork Belly garnished with Kombu (kelp), a tunkatsu Japanese BBQ sauce, caviar and scallions. The saltiness of the garnishes were excellent as the pork literally melted in your mouth. It made it difficult to use any describing word other than perfect.

After trying Andrew Zimmerman's TarTare, it's easy to see why its regarded as highly as it is. The organic fed beef was topped with pickled ramps (leeks), a fried beef tendon which gave a nice crunch to the dish, the roasted beef fat that was sprinkled over the dish set it apart as fat is always a good thing. Basil Gel, Chipotle sauce and caramelized onion puree were the accompanying sauces for an extra hint of fresh, sweet and spicy flavors. The fried tendon was also a fascinating addition, as you don't see tendon used very often in dishes.

Andrew Zimmerman at work on his famous TarTare Image courtesy of The Local Beet

One of the coolest parts of the evening was observing members of the Pop Up Butcher Shop carve an entire pig. They separated the various parts and auctioned off the cuts to the crowd where all the proceeds were donated to the students of the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.

In the end, Nicole Pederson was deservedly crowned "Princess of Porc". She will now compete in the "Grand Cochon" for a shot at earning the title "Queen of Porc". Her dishes were a touch above the rest in a tough competition. The upbeat vibe she presented showed how she truly cares about her work.

The spotlight truly shined brightest on the families responsible for the proper raising of the pigs used in the competition. They were given a deserving show of appreciation by Cochon 555 founder Brady Lowe as the event drew closer to it's finish.

Chef's can season and prepare their pork any style they wish, but if the main ingredient was not properly cared for, it's already an uphill battle.

The effort these families put in raising these animals day in and day out for others to enjoy goes above and beyond.

Breeds of the pig's used in todays event
Image courtesy of The Local Beet

From the atmosphere of a perfectly mixed variety of upbeat music, to the friendly hospitality displayed, to the wonderful array of dishes presented throughout the evening, this event delivered on all fronts.

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