Cochon 555 returns to Miami on April 19 with a celebration of the pig. But even though the event, held at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel, is considered by some a bit of porcine debauchery, there's a message to the madness.
It is meant as a celebration of family farms, heritage breed pigs, and as a way to bring the chef community together. The mission is to instill awareness of alternatives to factory farming and the sourcing of proteins from big-box supermarkets. In all, buying locally raised pork and other proteins is is better for farmers, the animals who are raised more humanely, and for you and your family.
Brady Lowe, founder of Cochon 555, considers his events a gateway to learning more about heritage bred pigs and family farms. "Cochon is a great party, and we get your attention by having you enjoy a great detailed event. That's a gateway that sets you on a path of knowledge, and the path is what is it's all about.
"It becomes almost like a journey to absorb that there's better food for me and my family. Once you get that, finding good heritage pigs might not be easy but it's worth it, so t's really this big foraging experience. heritage pig is the best damn pig that you'll eat, but you've got to track it down. What's nice is that many Miami chefs are already putting it on their menus. Hopefully, we all want to make better choices for our families."
Lowe, who by the way owns 55-pound pet pig named Nugget, said he started Cochon 555 after he wanted to move on from wine and cheese education. "I started with wine and cheese, talking about the husbandry of the dairy, the vineyards, and how they went through artisan hands and how they go together. I always feel better about my decisions when I'm educated. Then, I sort of graduated through those subjects and heritage pigs were the next conversation. I always said that my last meal would consist of wine, cheese, and pork. It made this entire pairing complete and it was just the right time."
The Miami event will feature five chefs, each tasked with creating a series of plates using a whole heritage pig. Participating chefs this year include Lindsay Autry of Fin & Feather, Xavier Torres of Drunken Dragon, Todd Erickson of Haven, Jason Pringle of db Bistro Moderne, and Richard Hales of Blackbrick. The five chefs will prepare a maximum of six dishes each, and will be judged for taste, presentation, and use of the whole hog by a panel of judges that includes Jose Mendin (Pubbelly), Aaron Brooks (Edge Steak & Bar), Danny Serfer (Blue Collar & Mignonette), Bradley Herron (Michael's Genuine), and Norman Van Aken.
The chefs are chosen by Lowe, who looks at whether they have similar missions. "We look at their menus and we also ask if the chefs are buying whole animal. There has to be some kind of relationship between message and technique. We also ask local farmers for their nominations. It gets them involved and that's how the movement continues to build."
In addition to sampling the dishes, guests can sample other decadent foods like oysters, foie gras, caviar, and prosciutto di Parma. Libations include a Buffalo Trace welcome punch, Manhattans, a good selection of bourbons including Eagle Rare, Buffalo Trace, Breckenridge, and Hirsch, and wines from Germany and St. Francis Winery.
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Cochon 555 also includes a pop-up butcher shop, where guests will witness a live butchering demonstration with Miami Smokers' Andres Barrientos, raising money to support culinary students from Johnson & Wales University. Tickets for Cochon 555 are $125 general admission, $200 VIP (which includes early admission at 4 p.m.) and can be purchased at cochon555.com.
Cochon 555 will also be hosting two dinners leading up to the main party. On Friday, April 17, a chef’s course dinner ($125) at Pubbelly features five guest chefs including Aaron Brooks, Cesar Zapata, Danny Smiles, Jose Mendin, and Timon Balloo followed by five courses paired with the Wines of Germany. On Saturday, April 18, big beef goes against heritage pork in a large format feast ($115) at L’echon Brasserie.
See cochon555.com for more information on the dinners.