By Santi Cardona
Cochon555 is no newbie in Miami and, this year, it came back bigger and better than ever. After four previous installments, this pork-centric event made it to the Ritz-Carlton, South Beach in hopes of pitting five chefs against each other, duking it out to be named the Prince or Princess of Porc.
The competing chefs included Clark Bowen and Rick Mace of Daniel Boulud’s db Bistro Moderne and Palm Beach’s Cafe, Tito Vargas of Jose Andres‘ Bazaar Mar, John Gallo and Rene Reyes of Pinch Kitchen, Jeremiah Bullfrog of gastropod, and Paula DaSilva of Artisan Beach House. Each chef was each given one whole, heritage-breed pig of 200 pounds and one week to prepare the whole animal. All of this, of course, is in support of Piggy Bank, a foundation that gifts heritage breed pigs to family farmers in exchange for business plans.
To complement the pork cook-off, Cochon555 also hosted two satellite competitions – Somm Smackdown and Punch Kings. Somm Smackdown pitted five of the city’s top sommeliers against one another in a quest to find the best wine/pig match and Punch Kings did the same with (you guessed it) cocktail punch.
Event highlights: The food highlights of the night included Tito Vargas’ paella, Chef Jeremiah’s tamales, and Pinch’s cochinita pibil sliders. All of this, which paired beautifully with drink options from a rum Bar, a mojito bar, Courvoisier old fashioneds, and unlimited amounts of wine.
In the end, Paula de Silva took home the trophy (and bragging rights) as Miami’s master of pork. Many of her dishes played with inspiration from her Brazilian roots mixed with her classic French techniques: feijoada with pork sausage, carrot vandouvan, barbecue pork rillette, pork consomme with lardo ravioli, pork belly nachos, and lard pie. She will go on to represent Miami against the other nine winners in Grand Cochon at Chicago in June where the grand champion will be crowned.
Standout dish: My overall favorite dish of the night came from one of the invited chefs who was not even participating in the competition. Chef Adrianne killed it with her char siu pork buns with ponzu aioli, pork crackling crumb, pickled cucumber, cilantro, and carrots.
Santi’s take: The caliber and quantity of food at Cochon555 is unmatched, making for one of the best food events of the year. You can feel the local Miami vibe here, giving the impression that the experience is unique to our city. It’s a very SOBEWFF-esque event outside of the hectic week that is the end of February.