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Events: Cochon555 Crowns the SoCal “Prince of Porc” Chef

Chef Hugo Bolanos from Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air gets into the festive spirit at the Cochon555 cooking competition in Santa Monica on March 11, 2018. Photo by Jenny Peters.

By Jenny Peters

For the last decade, Cochon555 has been spreading the word to pork lovers and chefs alike about heritage breed pigs, those ethically raised swine – the best breeds – that result in superior quality meat, with outstanding flavor. Cochon555 does that with a series of 14 chefs’ competitions that occur from January to September across the U. S. and are open to the public; this year’s Los Angeles stop on their so-called “epic culinary tour” happened at the Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica and it was a real winner for everyone.

Five renowned SoCal chefs competed, each offering up five small dishes made from five different heritage breeds. Each chef and his team plated feverishly to feed the hungry hordes at the sold-out event, as wineries, whiskey distilleries, craft breweries and five barkeeps known as the Punch Kings kept the libations flowing.

Preux & Proper chef/owner Sammy Monsour cooked up some delicious dishes at the Cochon555 pork cooking competition in Santa Monica on March 11, 2018. Photo by Jenny Peters.

Chef Sammy Monsour of Preux & Proper in downtown L.A. used a whole Berkshire pig from Peads & Barnetts Farm to make sublime Andouille sausage and other Cajun-influenced bites, while Thomas Bille of Otium drew a crowd with the rare Red Wattle pig, a lean and tasty breed from Sowbelly Sustainable Farm. He cooked up Tacos al Pastor, Pork Loin Tataki and even an Arroz con Leche with a lardo frosting.

Chef Hugo Bolanos from Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air used the distaff parts of his Mangalitsa sow from Winfield Farm in Buellton, offering Bone Broth with Hominy, Head Cheese with Avocado Puree and Pork Blood Sausage, while Lord Maynard Llera of Mason took a Duroc pig grown at Rancho Llano Seco Farm and wowed with Filipino-influenced dishes including Kinilaw sa Gata (loin in coconut curry) and Humba {shank with shitake and fermented black beans).

SoCal foodies were out in force at the Cochon555 heritage-breed pig cooking competition held at the Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica on March 11, 2018. Photo by Jenny Peters.

The day’s champion, anointed the “Prince of Porc” via the votes of attendees and judges, was Chef Brian Redzikowski. The executive chef from San Diego’s Kettner Exchange took a Berkshire pig from Cook Pigs Ranch and made some of the best Thai-style sausage we’ve ever tasted, with papaya, daikon and bird’s eye chili vinaigrette. He also offered a Pho dumpling, GimBap, a Pork “Toro” lettuce wrap and a Budino dessert made with pig skin.

Some of the winning chefs from Chef Brian Redzikowski’s San Diego’s Kettner Exchange restaurant plating pork bites at the Cochon555 pork cooking competition in Santa Monica on March 11, 2018, while their heritage pig on a skateboard keeps watch. Photo by Jenny Peters.

Tasting everything with the aid of Antinori’s Antica Wine from the Napa Valley was a delicious way to pair fine wine with excellent food. They poured their creamy, yet slightly acidic 2015 Chardonnay and their excellent, full-bodied, red fruit-forward 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. Both improved the day immeasurably.

Antica Wines from Napa Valley poured some of their top-notch wines during the Cochon555 pork cooking competition in Santa Monica on March 11, 2018. Photo by Jenny Peters.

Chef Redzikowski’s win moves him on to the 10th Anniversary Grand Cochon 10-chef finale competition that happens in Chicago on September 30. We’re considering booking our tickets now, which start at $150 per person (some of which goes to the Piggy Bank charity dedicated to helping small farmers continue to raise heritage-breed pigs); trust us, you should think about going, too, if you love eating the world’s best pig.

Follow Jenny Peters on Twitter @jennpeters and on Instagram @jetsetjen1

About Jenny Peters (164 Articles)
Jet Set Jen is the brainchild of Jenny Peters, a longtime freelance journalist whose career has spanned everything considered "Lifestyle" reporting, from movies and celebrities to fashion and fast cars, with plenty of food, wine and travel thrown in too. She currently contributes regularly to USA Today's 10Best.com, AARP.org, New York Magazine, Coast Magazine, Bask Magazine and numerous other newspapers, magazines and websites worldwide. She is a founding and voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (www.criticschoice.com), which annually honors the year's top films with the Critics' Choice Awards. Jenny and her crack cadre of reporters at Jet Set Jen offer up opinions, suggestions and insider scoops on the best that the world has to offer, to keep you on the cutting edge of that ever elusive pursuit of life, liberty, happiness – and fun, fun, fun.