Since I first heard about the Cochon 555 event a few years ago, I’d dreamt of the day that I would have the opportunity to sample the succulent swine selections served up by Miami’s best chefs. Well, last night my dream became a reality as I checked another item off of my foodie bucket list. The Kosher kids might not agree, but this Jewish boy was most definitely in hog heaven.
Cochon 555 is the nation’s first nose-to-tail culinary competition, an epic feast featuring top chefs preparing whole heritage breed pigs raised by local family farms. Over 1200 pounds of pork were put on display as five masterful Magic City chefs competed for the title of Miami’s “Prince or Princess of Porc.” Vying for the 2014 title were returning champion Chef Aaron Brooks of EDGE, Steak & Bar; Chef Conor Hanlon of The Dutch; Chef Bradley Herron of Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink; Chef Dena Marino of MC Kitchen; and Chef Jose Mendin of The Pubbelly Group.
I had a sty-side seat as these five remarkable chefs battled it out, each preparing six dishes using their own whole heritage breed pig. As if 30 plates of pork delicacies weren’t enough, the crowd of hungry gourmands and celebrated judges were also treated to a live butchering demonstration by Chef Thomas Griese of Michael Mina 74; a TarTare Bar helmed by Sugarcane and Bocce Bar’s Chef Timon Balloo; a “Punch Kings” cocktail competition featuring five local barkeeps; an Asian Speakeasy presentation by Jason Pringle of db Bistro Moderne; and a Swine & Sweets signature dessert course featuring Pastry Chef Antonio Bachour of the St. Regis Bal Harbour. All of this amazing culinary action was meant to tout the flavor and health benefits of eating heritage breed pigs while celebrating breed diversity and family farming. Mission accomplished.
After all was said and done, Chef Mendin took home the title thanks to his great diversity of dishes. Chef Mendin will go on to compete in the Grand Cochon at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen in June for bragging rights as the country’s “King of Porc” and a four-day wine experience to Rioja, Spain’s most prominent wine region.
In my humble opinion, Chef Mendin truly had three of the night’s best bites: Pig Sushi Nigiri, Bacon & Oyster Chowder and Mofongo.
Other standouts included the Bacon Sundae from Chef Hanlon, Chef Brooks’ Crisp Pork Belly, Chef Marino’s Coppa di Testa Panini, and the Head, Neck & Heart Crostini from Chef Herron.
For more food photos and to see the chefs in action, check out the photo gallery below.