The annual nationwide culinary event, which launched in 1999, normally 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 in Aspen for bragging rights as the King or Queen of Pork.
Last year, the pandemic interrupted the event’s multi-city tour, leading organizers to pivot to "Carry Out With Cochon," an at-home fest offering participants the opportunity to virtually cook along with some of their city's best local chefs.
Though cities like Miami are gradually opening back up to public events, bringing back the virtual experience as an option remains a logical approach, says Brett Friedman, partner and CEO of Agency 21 Consulting, which operates Cochon555.
"We're thrilled that the restaurant industry, which has been hit the hardest, is picking up steam," Friedman tells New Times. "But a lot of people looking for good food and engagement are still not comfortable going to events or restaurants. Cochon is specifically about local community, and our goal is to highlight sustainability and the local chefs and support the local restaurants."
Tickets to the 45-minute Zoom sessions, moderated by ChatChow TV’s Gio Gutierrez, start at $95 and include locally sourced ingredients for a multicourse meal, along with premade dishes. Each package comes with wine, spirits, and LaCroix sparkling water, curated to pair with the meal. During the virtual demo, each chef will demonstrate how to make a featured dish while up to 50 guests cook along with them.
The interactive online series kicks off in Dallas on April 20 and covers ten cities. In Miami, chef Eileen Andrade from Finka Table & Tap will host the first of two online evenings on April 28, with a Cuban sandwich egg roll and dishes of pulled pork rib tacos, along with masitas de puerco japchae (Korean glass noodle pork dumplings), and a dessert of flan de tocino y queso de cabra (a bacon and goat cheese flan).
The heritage pigs used in the recipes are hailed for their flavorful and tender meat and remain the stars of Cochon, but this year the event also introduces the option of a vegetarian meal for those with special dietary restrictions.
"We are evolving with the times and feedback we got last year," explains Friedman. "Some people won't eat pork, but still want to join in with their significant other or friends and we are making sure we don't alienate anybody."
Guests can choose to pick up their beverage and meal kit at the designated restaurant or have it delivered for an additional fee.
The majority of the proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the participating restaurants.
Miami's virtual lineup also includes Giorgio Rapicavoli (Eating House), who participated in last year's online event.
Cochon555 will also offer a live, in-person dinner series, featuring chef Cesar Zapata of Phuc Yea in Miami's MiMo District.
"I love the idea of a cooking class, but it is not for everyone," Zapata tells New Times. "Having the guests come into our restaurant and experience the ambiance allows us to tap into a new clientele. Cochon555 is one of the best culinary events we get to experience in Miami and we appreciate that they found a way of continuing things in terms of supporting the restaurants and farmers."
This year, event organizers are also launching Heritage Fuego, a Latin-inspired spinoff of Cochon's sister experience, Heritage Fire. The first edition will be held at the Biltmore Hotel in November and will feature a variety of wine and spirits, along with heritage-breed animals including goat, lamb, pig, cow, rabbit, chicken, fish, and duck, all cooked over open flame.
For a complete schedule and to purchase tickets, visit cochon555.com.