We didn't know what to expect from Cochon 555 -- a national, pig-centric culinary event that made its way to Miami for the first time this past weekend at the Four Seasons. We knew that five chefs would be playing with pig parts from five heritage breed animals, but we had no idea how long they had been working on the project. There were components that had been aging or pickling for a month and menus that had been in the works for much longer than that.
These chefs delivered complex, well-thought-out variations on pork everything in what turned out to be a serious competition among some of Florida's top toques: Michelle Bernstein (Michy's, Sra. Martinez, Crumb on Parchment), Michael Schwartz (Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, Harry's Pizzeria), Aaron Brooks (Edge Steak & Bar), James Petrakis (Ravenous Pig), and James Strine (Cafe Boulud). Each chef received a different piggie, ranging from Hereford to Berkshire. The focus was on farmers -- Cochon 555 hopes to promote awareness of the need for a more "natural, sustainable food system."
The judges' scorecards (all 20) included utilization (how did they use the pig?), presentation (how did they dress up the pig?) and flavor (how did the pig taste?). It seemed that all pig parts were present and accounted for, from chicharrones to chorizo-wrapped lomo to braised belly.
Expert butchery met culinary creativity, and what was the outcome? The populace claimed 51 percent of the vote, and the winner is...
Michelle Bernstein, whose "PB & J" was slathered with whipped lard "jelly" and liver pâté. She also served up a nose-to-tail croqueta with a filling of snout, shoulder, rib, belly, butt, feet, and skin.