Five Colorado chefs -- Jennifer Jasinski (Rioja, Euclid Hall, Bistro Vendome and the forthcoming Stoic & Genuine); Justin Brunson (Old Major and Masterpiece Deli); Paul Reilly (Beast + Bottle); Steve Redzikowski (Acorn and Oak at Fourteenth); and Bill Greenwood (Beano's Cabin) -- have been tapped to compete in Cochon555, the country's most pig-centric showdown of swine, which will trot into Denver on Sunday, March 9 and take place at the Ritz-Carlton, Denver from 4 to 8 p.m.
The five local chefs, all of whom are battling it out for the opportunity to become the ultimate "King or Queen of Porc" and win a four-day wine excursion to Rioja, Spain, are tasked with preparing a maximum of six dishes, all of which must utilize heritage breed pigs. Dishes, all paired with wines from five different wineries, are scrutinized by the public and team of judges, including yours truly, and the winner from the Denver combat will compete in the Grand Cochon, which unfolds in Aspen during the Food & Wine magazine Classic.
"I'm honored to be part of this incredible culinary tour to help build awareness and education for heritage breed pigs," says Brunson. "The mission of Cochon 555 is harmonious with what we're doing at Old Major: to bring consciousness to the animal's journey from the farm to the table. Our focus is on nose-to-tail butchery, in-house charcuterie, using local farms whenever possible as well as educating guests on the products they're eating and where they come from."
Along with the chef competition, expect a pig butchering demonstration from Jason Nauert of the Rocky Mountain Institute of Meat; a tartare bar overseen by John Little, exec chef of Harman's Eat & Drink; a "Punch Kings" cocktail competition featuring five local bartenders; a bourbon bar extolling spirits from Eagle Rare, Buffalo Trace, Breckenridge Bourbon, Hirsch, Templeton Rye and Luxardo; the "Goose Nest," an area pimping vintage ales of Goose Island Beer Co. paired with Hudson Valley foie gras; an artisan cheese bar; and desserts that praise the lard.
General-admission tickets to Cochon555 are $125, and VIP tickets, which give you early admission to sip and eat, are $200, and can be purchased at www.cochon555.com/2014-tour/denver. Additionally, if you sign up for the Cochon555 newsletter, you could win a VIP trip to the Rioja Wine & Tapas Festival in New York City on May 3, a $1,000 bottle of reserve bourbon from Breckenridge Distillery, or two VIP tickets to any Cochon 555 event in 2014.