bourbon Chicago food

Cochon 555 (For the Non-Vegans)

Friday, April 29, 2016 Jennie Velasco

I joined other hungry, meat-eating gourmands at this years Cochon555 food tour held at the Loews Hotel in Chicago. The three day event supported the Piggy Bank Initiative, a genetic sanctuary that will provide free heritage breed pigs to emerging family farms and culinary schools. 

Guests sampled forty of the best bites prepared by top chefs paired with artisan wines selected by celebrated winemakers and sommeliers alongside an endless culinary cocktail program from notable barkeeps in Chicagoland.  Cochon555 hosted back to back charity dinners on Friday and Saturday that consisted of family-style feasts paying homage to Chinese, Sichuan, Korean, Thai and Japanese restaurants. Nathan Sears of The Radler hosted guest chef Late Night Asian Speakeasy featuring an all-star lineup of five chefs including Cosmo Goss of Publican, Mark Hellyar of Momotaro, 2013 Cochon555 Winner Tim Graham and Ed Sura of Perrenial with the support of Niman Ranch, Sun Noodle, and Williams-Sonoma. Saturday had an equally exceptional lineup of five chefs for a three hour culinary event featuring Sarah Rinkavage of Lula Cafe, Andres Padilla of Topolobampo / Frontera, Andrew Gietzen of Yusho/Billy Sunday/A10, Abra Berens of Stock Cafe and Christopher Thompson cooking five-courses paired with Kettmeir Wines.

The Sunday event that I attended included competing Chefs Cory Morris of Rural Society, Sarah Grueneberg of Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio, Alfredo Nogueira of Analogue, Phillip Foss of EL Ideas and Sarah Rinkavage of Lula Cafe. Six dishes were prepared from one whole hog and their utilization would help them win votes from the crowd and celebrated judges. The winner of the regional event will be announced as the “Prince or Princess of Porc” and go on to compete for the national title of “King or Queen of Porc” at Grand Cochon, the tour finale, held at the Viceroy in Snowmass / Aspen on June 18th. A group of esteemed judges with the help of five Sommeliers participating in the new Somm Smackdown will help 400 guests help find the winner.

My adventure in this was welcomed with overwhelming decisions on where to start. Luckily the first thing that was given to me was an empty wine glass. There had been a selection of cured meats and cheeses and were later served by several drink vendors. With rum in hand, I took on local chefs with a variety of small servings of their own interpretations of pork. On the main stage, a sommelier competition took place while chefs were quickly putting together their dishes for guests to try. I confess that I am not knowledged in food other than I just like to eat it. I had brought a chef friend with me in hopes that I would get some enlightenment on this.

The main stage also held a competition and demonstration utilizing an entire hog.  Also to be noted were drink competitions that were garnished with dry ice/foggy concoctions that looked like potions out of Harry Potter.  After trying all five chefs, I had a winner in mind but having the perks of writing about this event hindered me from casting my ballot.  Although, I feel confident I swayed my pork partner to vote for my winner.

Cochon555 congratulated Sarah Grueneberg of Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio as the Princess of Porc and will be attending the Grand Cochon in Snowmass in June.  Sarah had some delicious food accompanied with mole shots mixed with tequila.  This kind of fun and eats really should be illegal, but I think its important to let you know of all the things you missed out on.  
If you are interested in attending the Grand Cochon and find more information the Piggy Bank Initiative visit There you will find more photos on the event I attended as well as the other cities Cochon555 has visited.  In case you want to visit these chefs in their natural habitat, the event's website also houses all the information on location and names of all the featured chefs and winemakers at the event.   

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