Last night at the Renaissance Blackstone Hotel in the South Loop, Travelle chef Tim Graham won the Chicago leg of the 2014 porktastic competition, Cochon 555. Graham's dishes drew from a variety of cuisines, including a Mediterranean taco that was a sort of preview of what's to come at his forthcoming riverwalk spot Elle on the River. He won over many of the attendees with an edible burning candle of curry rilettes.
Graham bested Giuseppe Tentori, Abraham Conlon, Ryan McCaskey, Cory Morris, and Giuseppe Tentori to take home the prize and will move on to the national finals in Aspen.
The Blackstone gave the event a more historic and intimate vibe than last year, as attendees packed a smaller main room and other facets, including drink booths and Rob Levitt's (Butcher and Larder) butchering demonstration, were held in separate rooms. The general public mingled with industry elite and feasted on pork and booze until founder Brady Lowe announced the winner at around 7:45.
More observations from the night:
· Tim Graham also drew heads by unveiling a "bacon machine" that produced a cooked strip of bacon at the touch of a button.
· The Mercat a la Planxa team rallied around a slogan, "ham job," wearing T-shirts and chanting it throughout the night.
· Carlos Gaytan mentioned that the city wants him to open a restaurant at O'Hare but he's unsure if it will happen. He had just returned to town from a two-week trip to South Africa.
· Jason Vincent cracked a few jokes about the rumor that he left Nightwood for "Top Chef." Thursday is his last day at the restaurant.
· Giuseppe Tentori made many judges happy by serving Pappy Van Winkle 23-year with his spread.
· Travelle and Fat Rice drew the longest lines by far.
· While many attendees adjourned to the afterparty at Mercat a la Planxa downstairs, a few chefs, judges, and staff held their own afterparty in the private judges' room and bonded over slugs of whiskey and paper cups of wine.
· Standout dishes: Cory Morris of Mercat impressed many attendees with a "peanut butter and jelly" layered mousse made of peanut butter and pork liver mousse and strawberry rhubarb jam. Abraham Conlon's family-style rice dish was also a favorite of many.
· All Cochon 555 Coverage [-ECHI-]