Ever pondered the difference between commodity pork and heritage pork?
“It’s like tasting chocolate cake from an artisan bakery for the first time versus a chocolate cake bought at the grocery store,” said Brady Lowe, founder of Cochon555.
Cochon555 is a grand pork festival that tours the country, with a mission to educate foodies about heritage breed pigs and the family farms that raise them.
Lowe created the festival as an avenue for chefs to connect and do business with small-time farmers who are raising these animals naturally, in open pastures, with no injected growth hormones or antibiotics.
“Heritage breed pigs appeal in taste, aroma, texture, and aesthetic very differently from commodity pork,” he said. “By cooking properly, with just salt and pepper, the amazing differences are difficult to describe, impossible to ignore.”
He compared heritage pigs to the grapes used to make wine; their flavor reflects the terroir where they were raised and the grains they were fed.
“Heritage pigs are a canvas of flavor for chefs,” he said. “Each breed has ranges, from slight to vast differences in flavor, fat coverage, and muscle structures.”
To find heritage-breed pork, he suggests visiting a local farmers’ market or butcher shop, or looking online for a local farm you can buy directly from.”Buying directly from the farm is the best way to invest in family farmers raising this amazing pork,” he said.
In each city the festival visits, five chefs engage in a friendly competition, each tasked with creating six pork dishes out of an entire locally raised hog—nose to tail. The winner, voted by the public, gets to compete with winning chefs from other cities in an epic final feast in Aspen, Colorado, to be held in June.
In New York City, the participating chefs will be Justin Smillie of Upland, Angie Mar of The Beatrice Inn, Hillary Sterling of Vic’s, Danny Mena of Hecho en Dumbo, and Mike Poiarkoff of Vinegar Hill.
Cochon festivals include a slew of other pork-eating activities, like an outdoor barbecue and a multi-course dinner.
Update: Chef Angie Mar of The Beatrice Inn was crowned the winner in New York City.
Friday, Jan. 22–Sunday, Jan. 24
Chelsea Piers, Pier 60
23rd Street and West Side Highway