In a normal year, the event celebrates heritage pigs with chefs competing in nose-to-tail cookoffs in 15 different cities, each leading to a Grand Cochon at the Food & Wine Classic for bragging rights as the "King or Queen of Pork."
This year's COVID-19 version of the porkapalooza will look different.
For the first time since its inception in 1999, Cochon555 will offer participants the opportunity to virtually cook along with some of their city's best local chefs from the comfort of their own home.
"We want to redevelop the event without losing authenticity," says Brett Friedman, partner and CEO of Agency 21 Consulting, which operates Cochon555. "In addition to staying relevant, most important to our business is to drive revenue to support the restaurants and farmers."
The interactive online series will kick off in Minneapolis on September 10 — picking up where the event left off at the onset of the pandemic — and end with Chicago chefs conducting virtual demos on October 25. Tickets to the 45-minute Zoom sessions start at $115 and include ingredients for an oinker-centric course, pre-prepared dishes, sparkling water, a bottle of white or red wine from Bodegas Ontañón, and a cocktail kit or premixed cocktail that includes either Buffalo Trace bourbon or Wheatley vodka. Guests can choose to pick up their kit at the chef’s designated restaurant or have it delivered for an additional $30 fee.
Eighty percent of proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the participating restaurants.
Miami's time in the spotlight — the city's ninth — will take place from Tuesday, September 22 through Sunday, September 27.
Chef Michael Lewis of Kyu will host the first online session, with a meal that features a tomahawk pork chop and a Thai fried-rice stone pot with pork sausage and duck. The lineup also includes Michael Schwartz (Amara at Paraiso), Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth (Root & Bone), Giorgio Rapicavoli (Eating House), and Brad Kilgore (Ember). Each session can accommodate up to 75 virtual guests.
The medium notwithstanding, the heritage pigs used in the recipes remain the stars of Cochon. Because the pigs aren't crossbred, they produce a darker, richer, more tender, more marbled (and typically fattier) meat that is hailed for its flavor.
Schwartz, whose menu includes a slow-roasted pig and, for dessert, a chocolate flan with bacon and cashew brittle, says the idea is to teach guests how to utilize different parts of the pig in their cooking.
"This virtual series is interesting and offers a safe approach," Schwartz tells New Times. "That's our new reality and we can't escape it — but still, the sessions won't feel like work. It's still all about fun."
For a complete schedule and to purchase tickets, visit cochon555.com.