CHICAGO — Some of Chicago’s leading chefs came together Sept. 11 to display their talent at the 3rd annual Cochon555 Heritage BBQ. The event featured chefs preparing one dish from their favorite barbecue culture in a non-competitive spirit of collective feasting. It also included a culinary competition featuring five chefs cooking whole, heritage breed pigs using global flavors and cooking techniques.
Each competing chef was given a 180- to 220-lb. heritage breed pig to create six dishes for attendees. A 20-person judging panel scored the dishes on utilization, global influences, cooking techniques and overall flavor, with the winner crowned the “BBQ King” of Chicago.
Heritage BBQ was started in 2012 as an effort to bridge the gap between family farms and all categories of barbecue restaurants. Created by Cochon555 Founder Brady Lowe, the event invites existing restaurants into the local and sustainable food conversation taking place nationwide, while simultaneously breaking ground on a new hyper-local, globally themed, farm-friendly strain of barbecue. Cochon555 champions food from real farmers with the goal of a sustainable and profitable relationship for all.
The Cochon555 US Tour executes a yearly host of hyper-local food events focused on raising awareness for heritage breed pigs through the world’s first nose-to-tail pig cooking competition. This epic pork feast visits 20 major cities in North America annually and stages more than 60 events. Cochon555 cultivates a long-term impact for heritage species, raised by family farms in top culinary markets in North America. Both educational and inspirational messages are circulated among 16,000 guests, 2,200-plus chefs, 150-plus family farms and 16 culinary schools. Since 2009, thanks to the tour, more than 50,000 consumers have experienced heritage pork for the first time and more than $750,000 has been paid directly to the farmers.
Cochon555 US Tour/Galdones Photography.
“We’re incredibly excited to return to Chicago for Heritage BBQ and pay tribute to global cultures by consuming local food the way barbecue was intended to be,” Lowe said. “This event returns the barbecue conversation to the original context of local meats, cooked with native spices, over fires and shared with a community. It’s only a matter of time until people demand better food choices when standing at the counter.”
This year’s Cochon555 Heritage BBQ competing chefs were Won Kim of Kimski, a Korean-Polish fusion counter-service restaurant; Frank Valdez of Son of a Butcher Tavern, a modern American tavern and barbecue pit; Andres Padilla of Topolobampo and Frontera Grill, ingredient-driven Mexican concepts; Chris Pandel of The Bristol, an American gastropub featuring nose-to-tail cooking; and Ashlee Aubin of Salero, a modern Spanish upscale restaurant.
Chef Padilla was named BBQ King of Chicago. Padilla used a Mangalitsa breed of pig raised by 1936 Meadowbrook Farms, Benton Harbor, Mich. His from head-to-tail winning menu featured Cochinita Pibil Tacos made with slow-roasted achiote-marinated pork shoulder wrapped in banana leaves on a fresh heirloom corn tortilla with pork black beans, pickled red onion and habanero salsa. The Lomo en Guajilla was lightly cured pork loin in guajillo sauce with heirloom beans and crispy onions. There were smoked ribs in a sweet and smoky guava glaze served aside cheesy grits. The tamale dish featured tamales infused with toasted pork lard, studded with caramelized plantains and smothered in mole negro and topped with sesame-almond crunch. On the side, there was stewed chicharron (pigs’ skin) and belly, which was cooked in a tangy tomatillo sauce and served with roasted potatoes with crispy chorizo. Lastly, Padilla put a unique twist on tostados by making them with pigs’ feet. This pickled delicacy had an accompaniment of homemade crema and smoked queso fresco dusted with crispy chicharron.
In addition to the 30 chef-competitor dishes, which totaled more than 1,500 lbs. of pork from family farms, event guests noshed on dozens of smoke-kissed, Old and New World barbecue preparations from Korean and African Braai to Asador and regional American styles. Other spreads included artisan and farmhouse cheeses, batch-churned premium butters, and innovative libations.
The event also served as a fundraiser for the Piggy Bank, a pig farming sanctuary harboring a selection of heritage breeds. It provides free genetics and access to shared business plans to emerging family farms. The Piggy Bank farm, to be located in Missouri, will raise heritage breed pigs to be gifted to communities, while building a model of agricultural transparency.