Cochon 555: I Judged and Loved It!

Certainly, the cooking teams from Memphis, Birmingham, and Little Rock who turned five heritage pigs into sublime presentations of taste, texture, and good looks deserve our applause. And congratulations to Kelly English for winning the Cochon 555 competition held Saturday night in downtown Memphis. But hey, I'd like to give a shout-out to the 20 judges who tasted all that food, including me. It was tough work, people!


Here's how the judging went. Before the event opened to the public, judges moved every 15 minutes or so from one chef's station to the next. Each station was prepped with plated food, table settings, and an adult beverage to complement the meal. Drink example: bacon-infused bourbon with a crispy pork skin and olive garnish. Each chef was judged for flavor, presentation, and utilization. That last category was a catch-all description for using it all, as in heads, shoulders, knees, and toes. Yep.

I thought I would get a little flipped out tasting such bizarre pig parts, but by chef number two, I was captivated completely by this creative (and sustainable) approach to putting a meal on the table. I had several favorite dishes that pop into mind: English's "leftover" Lou minh made with belly, skin, ginger, backfat noodles, and slow-roasted shoulder, "Ham and Eggs" from Little Rock's Sidney Street Cafe (scrapple, scrambled egg mouse, and smoked loin), a proschuito-type meat from Birmingham's Hot and Hot Fish Club wrapped around sprouts and, frankly, I simply don't remember what else, and the finish for Andrew Michael's delicious plate: chocolate blood tart with salted caramel popcorn gelato.

Are you jealous yet?

More than 400 people attended the sold-out event at The Columns at Commerce Square, supporting a culinary bonanza that founder Brady Lowe promises to bring back. Next time, don't miss it.

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