Hot on the heels of Baconfest, on Sunday there was yet another event for Chicagoans to pig out. Cochon 555, the country's premier pork competition, hit Morgan Manufacturing with a star-studded lineup of chefs cooking up pork-based dishes for hundreds of attendees. The event is in its seventh year of its multi-city tour focused on promoting the use of heritage-breed pigs.
The five local chefs competing in this year's event were Nathan Sears of the Radler, Nicole Pederson of Found Kitchen, Chris Marchino of Spiaggia, John Manion of La Sirena Clandestina and Thomas Rice & Kurt Guzowski of TÊTE Charcuterie. Each was given a different heritage-breed pig and tasked with producing multiple courses. They pulled out all of the stops and delighted guests with everything from Blood Soup Dumplings and Headcheese Torchon to Pork Belly Cannolis. In addition to the competing chefs, 2012's King of Porc Jason Vincent was on hand dishing out pork meatballs at the Tapas Bar while Andrew Zimmerman of Sepia was delivering raw bites of tartare.
Complementing all of the rich, salty goodness were several winemakers showcasing their wines as well as a perfect Manhattan bar. Also taking place was the third annual Punch Kings competition, pitting five Chicago bartenders against one another. They each had 30 minutes to prepare a bowl of punch, which featured a bottle of spirits along with special ingredients. It was a tight race but Stephen Cole of Barrelhouse Flat came out on top. Other festivities included a Pop-Up Butcher Shop with Rob Levitt of the Butcher & Larder. A Berkshire pig was butchered on site and its cuts were auctioned off, with all of the proceeds benefitting Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.
In the end though, there could only be one true winner of Cochon 555 and after the votes were tallied, Chef Pederson took home top honors for her work with the Hereford hog. A few of her crowd-favorites included Pork Belly Huaraches and a Candy Bar of smoked lard caramel, crispy pig ears, chicharones, dark chocolate and sea salt. She'll now go on to compete against other cities' winning chefs at the season finale Grand Cochon in Aspen, Colo. in June for the chance to be crowned the Queen of Porc.