After an afternoon feasting on over 1,500 pounds of heritage breed pork raised on family farms, almost 600 guests, including chefs, somms, barkeeps, and notable judges, gathered at Cochon555 Chicago with full glasses to toast the Chicago “Prince of Pork” Chef Daniel Espinoza of Cantina Laredo. Chef Espinoza and his team presented a menu utilizing one whole Ossabaw pig raised by Honey Bee Acres. Cochon555 founder Brady Lowe bestowed the winning chef with the regional title. Chef Espinoza will represent Chicago at Grand Cochon, the national finale on September 15, 2019 in Chicago. Alongside Chef Espinoza, Johnny Contraveos, the head bartender at About Last Knife, took home the trophy for Punch Kings, Cochon555’s spirit competition.
The event raised $3,500, proceeds of which will support Piggy Bank, a charitable foundation and start-up farm in Missouri that serves as a kickstarter for emerging family farms, as well as a safety net for farms in the wake of a disaster (flood, fire and disease).
To win this culinary competition for a cause, 5 chefs battled it out and presented more than 30 dishes, all featuring heritage breed pigs, to guests and celebrity judges. This year’s competing chefs included Chef Cory Morris of Nacional 27, Chef Jake Chappell of Vincent, Chef Chris Thompson of Coda di Volpe, Chef Brian Enyart and Chef Jennifer Jones Enyart of Dos Urban Cantina, and Chef Daniel Espinoza of Cantina Laredro. To win the trophy, Chef Espinoza presented a richly flavored and balanced menu of five dishes to guests and celebrity judges. The winning menu including: Tostada de Queso de Puerco, filled with black beans, salsa cruda, cabbage and pork fat lime vinaigrette, Pozole Verde, with hominy, radish and salsa Macha, Carnitas Guacasalsa, with pickled jalapeno escabeche, chicharron on a tortilla, Chorizo Verde, with cured cactus salad, cotija cheese, gigante beans in an avocado leaf, Pork Pepita Roulade, featuring dark pig blood mole, sesame and pepita crumbles and the Flan de Piloncillo Tocino, with pickled rhubarb and cinnamon sugar chicharron. Guests ate in celebration of a great cause while listening to music by DJ Pedi.
Cochon555 also hosted two beverage competitions this year, celebrating both spirits and wines. During Punch Kings presented by El Tesoro Tequila (video), 5 top barkeeps from Chicago faced off to make the best whole-bottle punch for a panel of 6 notable judges. Johnny Contraveos, of About Last Knife, won Punch Kings with his "Solar Vortex Punch”, which combined El Tesoro Blanco Tequila, Pink Guava, Hibiscus Piloncillo Syrup, Acidulated Pineapple Juice and Spiced Falernum. In Somm Smackdown (video), 5 top sommeliers were challenged to select a wine that perfectly paired with the dishes presented by the 5 competing chefs. Jillian Riley of NoMI took the trophy with her selection of Red Tail Ridge, a 2016 Pétillant Naturel of Riesling produced in the Finger Lakes region of New York. Additional competing somms and barkeeps included Jon McDaniel of Second City Soil, Rebekah Graham of Twain, Rebekah Mahru of City Winery and Amy Lutchen of Bonhomme Hospitality Group who rounded out the Somm Smackdown competition and Javier Arroyo of Bar Sotano, James Urycki of Travelle at the Langham Chicago, Ken Pritz of River Roast and Nigal Vann of Apogee, who presented hand-crafted punches for the spirits competition.
“The national competition gets more intense and dynamic every year, and the performance of chefs, somms, and barkeeps in Chicago shows precisely why the city is synonymous with landscaping a responsible culinary excellence in this country,” said Cochon555 founder Brady Lowe. “Chef Espinoza’s winning dishes were bold, modern, thoughtful, and full of the kind of flavors that enhance what heritage breed pigs have to offer. We can’t wait to return to Chicago in September for Grand Cochon where we will crown the King or Queen of Pork.”