Last Sunday, March 10, Cochon 555, the traveling culinary competition and tasting event created to promote sustainable farming of heritage breed pigs, brought together five chefs - Kelly Liken of Kelly Liken Restaurant, Alex Seidel of Fruition, Lon Symensma of ChoLon, Hosea Rosenberg of Blackbelly Catering, and Jason Harrison of Flame Restaurant at the Four Seasons Resort Vail. The event, hosted at the Four Seasons Resort Vail, ended with the chef Jason Harrison of Flame Restaurant winning the competition and being crowned King of Porc.
The unsung hero of the porky victory was a Mulefoot heritage pig that was raised locally by Boulder's Erik Skokan of Black Cat Bistro and Bramble & Hare. Skokan owns a 120-acre organic farm called Black Cat Farm, just North of Boulder in Niwot. There, he grows 250 heirloom and heritage cultivars, raises Tunis and Karakul sheep, Mulefoot pigs, Freedom Ranger chickens, heritage turkeys and ducks.
The winning Mulefoot made it into the Cochon 555 competition when Eric Duffy of Tender Belly asked if Skokan if he would be willing throw one of his heritage pigs into the mix. Skokan was interested. He wanted to know who would be working with the pig, so he researched Jason Harrison and was confident that the chef valued his philosophy of letting the food speak for itself. "It was like sending a daughter off to her first prom," Skokan said, except the pig was a boy. Skokan is not shy about giving his hog recognition for the win; he is convinced that the quality of the pig made a big difference.
Black Cat Farm is on his fourth year of raising pigs. The first hogs came from a family in Wyoming who was interested in reaching farmers committed to growing the line. Skokan was drawn to the disposition of the Mulefoot, a low maintenance heritage breed that yields marbled and deeply flavored meat. Generally, Black Cat Farm uses its pigs in the restaurants Skokan owns and sells the meat at the Boulder Farmer's Market.