Cochon 555: A Prestigious Culinary Event Heads for Memphis

Mark Newman of Newman Farm raises heritage breed pigs in Myrtle, Missouri.

Cochon 555, one of the most prestigious culinary events in the country, is coming to Memphis in February thanks largely to Mark Newman's tireless promotion of the city as an up-and-coming foodie town. His great-tasting heritage pigs help a little too.

"They were  headed for Charlotte, but at the last minute they decided to come to Memphis," Newman says.

Cochon (that's French for pig) and Memphis make a perfect marriage, he continues: "Memphis has always been about pork, but Cochon is about pork used in a totally different way."

The "555" in Cochon stands for five chefs, five pigs and five winemakers. For the cooking competition, chefs prepare a remarkable array of dishes using all parts of the pig. ""It's not just about ribs and butt," Newman says.  "It's about chefs using every piece of the pig from the snout to the tail."

Cochon started four years ago to promote heritage breeds and local producers. (Those are Newman's Berkshire pigs in the photo.) The format is the same each year: Chefs compete in 10 cities, and the winners from each regional competition travel to Aspen for a national cook-off called the Food & Wine Classic.

Local chefs for the Memphis competition, set for February 4, include Kelly English of Restaurant Iris in Midtown and Michael Hudman of Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen in East Memphis. Other competitors, while still unconfirmed, will likely include chefs from St Louis and Little Rock.

Elk Cove Vineyards and Chase Cellars will pour wines, says Lori Lefevre Wells, Cochon 555 spokeswoman. Wells still can't confirm the location for Chochon, but Newman gives this hint: "You need a place with kitchens that can accommodate about 400 people." Hmmm. I'm thinking the Peabody.

Tickets to the event are $125 or  $200 for VIP passes. To purchase tickets or find more information about Chochon 555, click here.

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