Cochon555 Boston

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This weekend, we went to Cochon555 at the Fairmont Copley Plaza. Never heard of Cochon555? We hadn’t heard much about it either. I heard Chef Matt Jennings mention it at last year’s Chef’s Collaborative conference, but I’d forgotten about it until I randomly read something online just a few weeks ago which prompted M & I to decide to go at the very last minute because it sounded like fun.

And was it fun! Cochon is a  near bacchanalian pork feast/party/cooking competition/educational event attended by a couple hundred chefs, food bloggers, service professionals, other people in the food business. Brady Lowe started Cochon to pay homage to heritage breed pigs – and the attendees and competitors zealously revere these pigs! The event  tours 14 cities across the country and features a 5-chefs, 5-heritage pig, and 5-wine cooking competition in each city. The winners from each city face off at the Aspen Food & Wine festival at the end of the tour.

Brady Lowe founded Cochon not only to honor the superior taste of these animals whose breeds are in danger of extinction,  but also to pay recognition to the importance of preserving all heritage breeds be it plant or animal. It’s a party with a purpose, educating foodies about the all aspects of a more local, sustainable food system from animal (or plant) to table and all of the steps in between. He certainly has created a very engaging, entertaining, and delicious platform from which to spread these messages.

M & I sprung for the VIP tickets which gave us access to a pre-event cocktail party. Held in an ante-room next to the ballroom, it was a more intimate affair with wine tasting and hors d’oeuvres and networking. While it was crowded, one could still move (somewhat), and actually hear to talk to other people. It gave us first access to the ballroom where we could watch the chefs as they were finishing their pork cooking competitions.

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Cochon chefs at work in the Copley Fairmont Ballroom

The Fairmont’s ballroom is gorgeous – elegant with vaulted ornate ceilings and a balcony overlooking one side of the room. The main ballroom floor was a frenzy of activity with the chefs and their sous-chefs working feverishly to finish their pork creations in their make-shift kitchens at their stations. The chefs were: Mary Dumont from Harvest in Cambridge; Will Gilson from Garden at the Cellar in Cambridge; Matt Jennings from Farmstead in Providence, RI; Barry Maiden from Hungry Mother in Cambridge; and Lydia Shire from Locke-Ober and Scampo in Boston.

As part of our ticket, we were able to try each chef’s creations, which turned out to be mini-meals featuring pork within each course. Each guest had the opportunity to vote on a winner in addition to the official judges, so we felt compelled to sample everything. We lost steam about 3 plates in. It was a lot of pork. Don’t get me wrong…I love the pig. But with an average of 6 pork items on each plate, most of which were very rich, we were beginning to feel a bit Adam Richman-eque. It was becoming woman versus food, the sheer volume and richness of which was overwhelming our palates (and stomachs).  Some dishes were fantastic, but others, such as the bacon wrapped with pork fat cotton candy or the pork “oreo” which was a chocolate lard cookie filled with bacon maple cream, bordered on gratuitous pork use. On plates 4 and 5, we only had a couple of bites.

Nonetheless, we unanimously agreed with the judges who crowned Chef Matt Jennings the third-time winner of Cochon Boston. His winning menu included: Lard toasted waffle “poutine” with ham terrine & maple gravy; deep fried “crouton”with smoked tomato maple ketchup; maple chicharron with chorizo pop-rocks; chocolate lard cookie with bacon maple cream and fat snow.

Chef Matt Jennings

Chef Matt Jennings Winning Pork Plate

One of our favorite parts of the night was when we met Chef Tiffany Faison from Rocca (which unfortunately closed at the start of the year) and Top Chef. She was sous chef for Mary Dumont, but we were standing next to her at the pig butchering contest. I’m such a huge Top Chef fan that I had to introduce myself. She was very friendly, and we had a great chat about Rocca and her future plans for a new restaurant. Can’t wait to try it.

Make sure to check out Cochon555 next year. But definitely go there very hungry!

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