With just a few days left until Miami's best event of the year, Aaron Brooks is busily chucking away in a secret kitchen at Edge Steak & Bar -- carefully formulating his master plan to win this year's Cochon.
Michelle Bernstein was queen at 2012's pork-centric affair, but Brooks thought he'd brought it all.
A bittersweet loss has given him the umph and drive to go even bigger this year.
And he's doing it with a 300 pound 1 year-old that we've named "Lucky."
Lucky is a heritage breed called a Large Black. Large Blacks have a darker, beefier meat than most other breeds. Brooks plans to use that to his advantage this year.
Weighing in at the size of a body builder, Lucky is large and in charge and ready for battle -- no, really. Brooks and sous chef Jose Gamez have already divided Lucky up into the necessary cuts for killer brines and expert roasting.
Note: They didn't really name the pig Lucky. We did. Brooks looked at us with an awful face when we suggested it, but we insisted.
What exactly is Brooks bringing to the table this year? Well, last year, he brought a play on Cuban sandwiches, anticucho, chorizo, and ham-hock ice cream.
This year, the ice cream (which was an absolute hit) is making a comeback with the help of pastry chef Sarah Thompson.
He's also bringing back sandwiches, but "expect to see a little Florida seafood action," Brooks says. "We're taking it to the next level this year." He gestured towards a meat grinder which implied there will also be sausage present, and Brooks reiterated brines, braises, and some good roasts.
What will surely kick it off the charts, though, is the planned head cheese, stuffed trotters, and some offal action, all brought together by the flavors of Miami.
"I really want to keep it true to Miami," Brooks says.
As for his competition, Jeff McInnis, David Thompson, Timon Balloo, and Cesar Zapata will be bringing their porcine skills to the table.
"It's hard, you know. David is probably doing something crazy. Cesar is like the quiet achiever. You don't think he brings much because he's so quiet, but then he kills it. I'm sure Timon is gonna bring some Latin fusion into the mix, and, well, Jeff is the Southern-pork-flavor guy. That's what he does best."
But Brooks goes on to say, "I'm bringing old school technique. I can give you shock value, but I'm gonna bring you what's delicious instead."
He's also planning some interactive components and props for the station.
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With all the boys bringing their war faces and punches, a good fight will be fought at Cochon this year. A good fight indeed.
Cochon 555 will take place this Sunday, April 21, at 5 p.m. at the Four Seasons. For tickets, click here.
Follow Alex on Twitter @ARodWrites.