Crispy pigs ears, offally good pate, headcheese heroes, chile verde tacos, smoked pork belly and German chocolate bacon cake comprised Chef Ben Ford’s winning combination at last Sunday’s Cochon 555 event at the House of Blues.
Ben Ford of Ford’s Filling Station and four other regional chefs – Chad Colby of Mozza, Jason Neroni of Superba Snack Bar, Neal Fraser and Travis Lorton of Strand House and Micah Wexler of Mezze – delighted the wine-sipping crowd with their creative uses of the whole pigs that were delivered to their kitchens. While a live butchering demonstration hogged (pun intended) the crowd’s attention, the five chefs and their teams feverishly prepared decadent dishes that each incorporated one or more parts of the pig.
Cochon 555, an annual culinary competition that travels the US, seeks to promote sustainability and utilization of local food sources. Five days before the event each chef is delivered a heritage pig from a local farm. No part of the animal goes unused. The chef must create a snout-to-tail menu based upon the size and consistency of the pig. “Ben spent the first four hours just studying the pig, “said his wife, Emily Ford. “He had to know what he was working with before he could even begin to think about a menu.”
The chefs and their teams prepare tirelessly in the week leading up to the event. “The pig arrived on Tuesday and our shortest day since has been fourteen hours,” said Jason Neroni , head chef of the soon-to-open Superba.
While the center of the room stationed each restaurant’s contribution, the perimeter of the room was dotted with wineries, breweries, cheese shops and photo booths that added to the overall joviality of the event. One was hard pressed to look around the room and find a single face that wasn’t smiling ear to ear.
“Cochon is a plethora of porcine goodness,” said the owner of Olde Reminisce Farm, Lori Enright, who supplied the pig for last year’s butcher’s demonstration.
The crowds moved about the room sampling the dishes, fine wines and craft beer, all while the speakers blasted classic Motown, feel-good reggae and the Beastie Boys to commemorate the passing of Adam Yauch (otherwise known as MCA).
While each chef presented a uniquely different menu, the philosophy of sustainability was consistent across all chefs. “Sustainability is paramount in my approach to cooking,” said Micah Wexler, head chef at Mezze.
When we finally caught up with Ben Ford, we were only able to get a few words in before the chefs were called to the stage.
The MC of the night called up each chef by name. As the chefs arrived to the stage, drinks in hand, there was an overall sense of camaraderie amongst the contestants. The hugs, handshakes and back pats were a symbol of the spirit of this event.
Then the MC announced Ford as the winner. Ford’s camp erupted in elation.
We met up with Chef Ben Ford and his team at the after party. “This competition is all about what gets handed to you,” said Chef Ben Ford. Thank you and congratulations to Chef Ford and the other four chefs. What got handed to us was nothing short of a cornucopia of divine swine.