1200 pounds of heritage breed pork, 10 chefs, 3.5 hours. Vegetarians beware, this is Grand Cochon: Cochon 555's pork-de-resistance where the regional Cochon champions compete in a "head-to-tail," winner-takes-all showcase for the title of King or Queen of Porc. This year, chef Ray Garcia of FIG in Santa Monica took the crown and a prize package trip to Rioja.
As we recover from Sunday afternoon's pork overdose in which local chef Jennifer Jasinski competed and put up a great fight, here are some of our hangover observations:
Close quarters: Is that a hand? A wine glass? A basket of pork cracklings pushing through the crowds (fingers crossed)? The Hotel Jerome ballroom was packed tight with chefs, staff, and eager diners juggling wine glasses, pork, and Instagrams with less and less poise as our glasses emptied.
Piggy love: "That's our Pig Farmer!" exclaimed chef Jennifer Jasinski between ladles of addictive posole. The McDonald Family farmer who supplied Jaskinki's Duroc pig emerged from the crowds and ran in behind the booth to give a big bear hug to Jaskinski's team. Chef Richie Nakano's team also didn't shy away from honoring their Llano Seco Rancho Duroc pig, which they named Gwyneth.
Bacon bourbon ice cream: Chef Mary Dumont's greatest hit was her Bacon & Bourbon Ice Cream Sandwich which succeeded in sating our sweet tooths while also prepping our palates for the nearby Manhattan bar.
Crowd favorite: the longest lines formed around Hapa Ramen's booth, where chef Richie Nakano's in-demand ramen featured a velvety and rich broth, reinforcing Hapa's strengths and mission. "We wanted to do something close to our roots. The other chefs here are upscale dining, but we come from the streets and we wanted our food to reflect that." Nakano's take on street ramen was well worth second and third helpings.
Oh but they're weird and they're wonderful: "Are you patient?" chef Tim Graham asked as he lit the wick on his pork curry rillette "candle" that melted down a top layer of fat as it burned. Chef Jose Mendin played with pork "sushi" and chef Ray Garcia also subbed pork for fish in his ceviche-style pork coctel, served with a pig-shaped saltine.
Life-changing: "This posole will change your life," says chef Jennifer Jaskinski as she hands out bright red bowls with dollops of creamy green slaw on top. "You'll taste my heart and soul." A few other chefs incorporated their pork into a soup, but chef Jenn's was certainly a favorite. Must be that extra dash of heart and soul.
Chilaquiles for a king: winning chef Ray Garcia wowed palates with a rich chilaquiles dish that integrated the belly, head, blood, and organs of his Cook Pigs Ranch Berkshire pig.
— By Emily Grossman