Brady Lowe, President & Creative Director, Taste Network
Brady Lowe was born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa and received his B.A. from the University of Iowa. He currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia but spends most of his time on the road… tasting his way across the country while promoting great products, whole animals, grape clusters and the niche farm movement.
A respected authority of the culinary community, it is Brady Lowe’s mission to execute memorable live-events in the luxury lifestyle market. Case in point, Cochon 555, a ten-city culinary tour where renowned chefs prepare heritage pigs in a head to toe competition. The event showcases 5 chefs, 5 pigs and 5 winemakers in a friendly competition for the cause of promoting breed diversity and whole animal utilization. Since 2009, The Cochon US Tour brings together top chefs, winemakers, farmers, thought-leaders, foodies, media and responsible consumers to celebrate artisan products.
What was your inspiration behind the launch of Cochon 555?
Cochon began 7 years ago when I noticed there was no active promotion for the eating of heritage breed pigs. I met amazing farmers who raised these animals and they had no idea how to meet chefs. Farmer’s markets were just starting, the good food movement was not developed, and we needed an event to showcase these great food champions. I had an idea to host an event where five chefs each compete with one whole pig from a different farm, and then I noticed there were different breeds, just like different grape varietals, very specific to the grower and region.
What is so special about heritage breed pigs?
Heritage breeds are important to the culinary community because it teaches us many valuable lessons, first of which is utilization in the kitchen. The trend is as older than me; our elders never wasted any part of the animal and heritage breeds take us back in time to those traditions of sharing in the heritage of those who we respect and recipes we collect.
Second, heritage breeds are synonymous with family farms. The farmers are the only ones raising these niche proteins. In the end, we agree that one of the goals in today’s kitchen is creativity and whole heritage pigs are the ultimate creative challenge. ‘Nose-to-tail’ pig utilization provides the example of zero waste and profit orientation while providing numerous benefits to local family farms. It’s more flavorful and it just feels good too.
What does ‘nose-to-tail’ mean to you?
Not only is a pig tasty from bumper to bumper and worth my discovery by each and every part, but it also means sustainability. Using something in totality, extracting every inch of flavor, turning that into food and selling it provides a return to the chef. It helps chefs to drop food costs, just enough to make celebrating this animals a good conversation by everyone in the restaurant.
If you had to describe Cochon 555 in 3 words, what would they be?
Epic. Pig. Event.
This year marks the festival’s 5th year coming to Miami. Why Miami?
Miami is an amazing city, full of chefs who love using the pig. Being able to be part of the conversation that brings chefs closer to amazing farms raising this safer, more flavorful pig is what the tour is all about and there is no better place to do this than Miami. We have made some great introductions and see the landscape for heritage pig farmers expanding, which in turn puts safer food on menus all across Florida.
What’s your all-time favorite pork dish?
It’s very hard to pick one out of almost 1500 dishes over seven years, but I love Greibenschmalz – a delightful meat paste from my friend Devin Knell at the French Laundry. When I tried it, it was unexacting – a meat paste – but then it was like a mind-opener, a new frontier of fat, crisp, shredded muscles and onion, garlic, and herbs racing through my pallet. It was insane. Devin also just shared this amazing Porc Belly with Cider Reduction recipe that’s going in the book due to be released this fall. Let me tell you, a room full of chefs all turned their head when they tasted this belly.
What’s your favorite pork/drink pairing?
I love the perfect Manhattan bar at the event. I also love mezcal and old fashioneds. And, of course, I can’t resist a good Riesling.
What’s the most creative pork dish you’ve seen over the years at Cochon 555?
We see everything from whole animal dishes to the best sweets designed around the pig. It’s such a versatile and magical animal. Here are some of my favorite creative examples to pick from:
- Black Pig Bacon-in-the-Batter Waffles with Bacon Toffee + Bourbon Gelato
- Cider Brined Pork Tenderloin with Blood Pudding, Apple, and Celery Root
- Porchetta di Testa with Hand Made Cavatelli, English Peas, Yard Egg, and Cacio Pecora Broth
- Crispy Chili Pig Ears with Roasted Lemon-dandelion Tartar Sauce
- Hoison Roasted Whole Pig Tacos, Caja China Style, with Hoison Elixir
- Maple Pig Head and Johnny Cakes
- Pig Head Parmesan Sandwich
- Smoked Pork Shoulder and Brown Sugar Bread Pudding
- Char Siu Wrapped in Sticky Rice
- Corn Fritters with Confit Pork Neck, Pickled Chanterelle, Sweet Pimento and Toasted Pine Nut Relish
- Red Braised Pig Heart W/ Pickled Mustard Greens
How does the Miami culinary scene compare to some of Cochon 555’s other host cities?
It’s one of the more dynamic markets we visit throughout the year. Tons of great flavors and spirit of islands really make their way into the culture and onto plates in all the great restaurants. Everyone is totally in good spirits and it’s nice to see everyone each time because it’s like a homecoming of sorts.
What’s your favorite thing about visiting Miami?
The most amazing weather, the people, getting a bowl of Udon Carbonara at Pubbelly and seeing my boys at Miami Ink.
What new location would you like to bring Cochon 555 to in 2016?
Cochon 555 returns to Miami for this 5th consecutive year this weekend to celebrate family farms, heritage breed pigs, and today’s emerging chef community. This year’s competing chefs include Lindsay Autry of Fin & Feather, Xavier Torres of Drunken Dragon, Todd Erickson of Haven South Beach, Jason Pringle of db Bistro Moderne, and Richard Hales of Blackbrick. The five chefs, champions of whole hog utilization, will prepare a maximum of six dishes with hopes to win votes from a crowd of hungry gourmands and celebrated judges.
P.S. In addition to the main event on 4/19, tickets are still on sale for the Cochon Chef’s Course Dinner Series with Pubbelly Chef and last year’s Prince of Porc, Jose Mendin, on 4/17 and the Large Format Feast on 4/18 at L’echon Brasserie. Buy now and start fasting for this weekend’s pork deliciousness!
Mitch & Mel