Cafe Society

Cochon555 Denver tour: Five local chefs, five heritage breed hogs, five winemakers and a "Prince of Porc" title

Cochon555, the exclusive nationwide traveling swinefest that was started three years ago by founder Brady Lowe, has pig-pointed Denver as a stop on its 2011 ten-city jaunt, which kicks off in New York City on January 16.

The date of the Denver pork-off is tentatively slated for April 3 at an as-yet-to-be-determined location. "We usually take over a nostalgic, heritage-style ballroom in a hotel, or a really unique and cool space, like at an art museum, but we're still searching for the right space in Denver," says Lowe, who started the roving expeditions as a way to promote heritage breed pigs -- pigs that are raised and killed by local farmers rather than by monstrous slaughterhouses. "It's all about heritage breed pigs and raising awareness about the possible extinction of the breed, as well as promoting small niche farms and the chefs that celebrate those small farms," adds Lowe.

The snout-to-snout smackdowns, which always include five local chefs, wines from five family-owned producers, five (doomed) heritage breed pigs (and, usually, meat-butchering demonstrations), eventually culminate in a piggy coma climax in Aspen during the Food & Wine Classic, the site of the Grand Cochon, a battle among ten star chefs from across the country, each of whom nabbed the "Prince of Porc" crown in their respective cities.

And it was during last year's Classic that Lowe began to seriously consider the Mile High City as a potential tour stop. "While we were in Aspen, we talked to a lot of different people who were championing Denver, and we realized that some really amazing things were happening on Denver's culinary scene," explains Lowe, who has sent shout-outs to numerous local chefs, inviting them to be a part of the Mile High City's porcine blowout. "We like to go with passionate chefs who have pork on their menus with sources that we can link back to, chefs who are known for their charcuterie and whole-animal utilization, and chefs who are local ambassadors of the local food movement and have some kind of influence and following."

The chosen chefs, all of whom will be paired up with a farmer, are each given a different breed of pig that they haven't worked with in the past, and they then have seven days to create a dish that will result in a winning score from the judges, a pool of twenty that includes farmers, food media, chefs and processors of artisan foods. The chefs, who are encouraged to cook from nose-to-tail, are also judged by guests who vote on their favorite dish. "The chefs are cooking for two audiences, so they need to be dynamic in both rooms," says Lowe, adding that the toques can create as many dishes as they'd like. "Typically, the chefs make anywhere from three to fifteen dishes -- the really ambitious chefs will do fifteen -- and they come to the competition, which is fun and friendly, with 90 percent of their mise en place complete."

And then the porcine crowds go hog wild and pig out.

The complete tour schedule will be announced on the Cochon555 website on November 1. Keep watching this space for deets on which chefs will participate in the Denver throwdown for pig supremacy.

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Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson