Tag Archives: culinary competition

Cochon555 Returning to Colorado

Vail is one of 10 stops for peripatetic pork competition and tasting event

Cochon555-logoI attended the Denver visit of the first year of the COCHON 555 tour and was blown away by the butchering, the food, the wine and the restaurant biz collegiality for many of the guests were chefs or others in the local hospitality business. (Click here for my report.) Alas, the event has never returned to the Mile High City, but Vail is the third of 10 stops in 2013 — the fifth anniversary of this event that was created to promote sustainable farming in general and heritage-breed pigs in particular.

It takes place at the Four Seasons Vail on Sunday, March 10 and features five chefs, five pigs and five winemakers. The chefs — Alex Seidel of Fruition, Hose Rosenberg of Blackbelly Catering, Jason Harrison of Flame Resturant in the Four Seasons Vail, Kelly Liken of Restaurant Kelly Liken and Lon Symensma of ChoLon — are challenged to prepare a menu from the entirety of one 200-pound family-raised heritage breed of pig, nose-to-tail.Bill Greenwood of Beano’s Cabin is doing the butchering, and Julian Smith of Bol Vail is preparing a “family meal” of barbecue. el

Twenty judges who are described as “culinary luminaries” and 400 guests help decide the winning chef by voting on the “best bite of the day.”. The winner will be crowned the Prince of Porc (or presumably Princess of Porc) and will compete at Grand Cochon event at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen on Sunday, June 16.

New additions in 2013 — some just for VIP level guests — include the launch of a cocktail competition called “Punch Kings” featuring Breckenridge Bourbon, prepared by six local bartenders, plus the new TarTare Bar round out the exclusive VIP hour. All attendees can watch butcher demonstrations, inhale sustainable oysters, taste creative pork dishes from all the chefs, pay a visit to the Manhattan Bar or new Chupito Bar featuring Mezcals, the amazing Cheese Bar, ice-cold brew from Anchor Brewing, pork-spiked desserts and cold-brewed coffee to close out the evening. Tickets are $125 to $150 plus a $10.38 to $14.75  service charge and can be ordered online. The Four Seasons Vail has lodging for those too comatose to go elsewhere!

Panzano Chef Won Cook-Off for a Cause

Elise Wiggins was the winner in a special wine/food pairing competition

Elise Wiggins

One of my recent disappointments is that last week got away from me — too much work, too little time. I had been invited to a terrific-sounding culinary event. Four leading Colorado chefs  went head-to-head in a competition requiring them to pair Italy’s  Allegrini Palazzo della Torre wine with a signature dish. I planned to go. I wanted to go. And in the end, I very reluctantly had to cancel. My loss.

I just learned what I missed as the chefs competed in front of an audience and panel of judges at Mise En Place Cooking School. The judges, made up of food and wine media, members of the trade and winery executives (including Marilisa Allegrini, sixt- generation owner of the Allegrini Winery and owner of a cooking school in Italy selected Elise Wiggins’ confit rabbit with gnocchi as the entrée that paired best with Allegrini Palazzo della Torre.

Generous Allegrini is donating money to each chef’s chosen charity, based on place in this competition:
1st place: Chef Elise Wiggins from Panzano
 $5000 donated Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender equality.
2nd place: Brunella Gualerzi fromil Bistro Italiano, Grand Junction
to Cooking Matters, which empowers families at risk of hunger with the skills to make healthy, affordable meals.
3rd place: Scott Parker from Table 6
$1,000 to  Hope for Haiti, which has been working for more than 20 years to improve the quality of life for Haitian people.
4th place: Tyler Wiard from Elway’s Cherry Creek
$500 to
ProStart, an educational fund for those in the foodservice industry, and Project Angel Heart, which works to ensure those with life-threatening illness receive proper nutrition.

About Allegrini Palazzo della Torre

Here’s the way Allegrini describes itself: “Allegrini is a historic producer of wines from the northern Italian region of Veneto that has garnered international acclaim. Marilisa and Franco Allegrini, owners and active in winery management, are benchmark producers of some of the region’s most famous wines including Amarone, Valpolicella and Soave. Allegrini Palazzo della Torre is created from grapes grown on an estate in Fumane di Valpolicella, just north of Verona in northeastern Italy. The wine is made using an innovative RIPASSO method. 70 percent of the grapes are vinified immediately after harvest. The remaining 30 percent are dried for several months, then added to the fermenting wine. Allegrini Palazzo della Torre is deep ruby red in color, has a wild berry perfume and a flavor of raisins.”

Cochon 555 was a Major Pig-Out, Literally & Figuratively

Two butchers butchered,  five chefs created, 22 judges judged & scores of guests gluttonized

This year’s logo looks much like last year’s — except for the final number.
Cochon 555 occupied prime real estate on the meetings level of the Ritz Carlton Denver. It kicked off in mid-afternoon with a VIP reception in a small-ish room with premium wines and appetizers, then moved on to the general admission competition in the ballroom for the competition and finished some four hours later with an après-feast feast, dessert and announcement of the winner.
Until Sunday, when I went to the Denver stop of Cochon 555, a 10-city national tour that promotes heritage pigs, I hardly ever thought of butchering as a spectator sport. I write “hardly ever,” which would have been  “never” until the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art’s recent “Art Meets Beast,” a happening during which Pete Marczyk and Jimmy Cross of Marczyk Fine Foods butchered a bison in front of what was reported as a fascinated audience.
Marzcyk’s Jimmy Cross, turning a heritage pig carcass into pork items.
But back to the cochons at hand, I don’t know what kind of crowd Cochon 555 has been drawing in other cities, but in Denver, there were a lot of chefs, wine folks and others in the food biz — professional courtesy meets professional curiosity, I’m sure.  Competitors included some of Colorado’s leading and highest-profile chefs: Frank Bonanno, Jennifer Jasinski, Kelly Liken, Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, Alex Seidel. Each chef brought a cadre of assistants, including some important chefs in their own right. Each one was given a heritage breed pig in advance, so the ballroom butchering of two more pigs by Marczyk’s Jimmy Cross and Chris Fuller of Durango’s Sunnyside Meats was just for show.
Pretend pigs, that will forever be on the hoof, were light-hearted decorations on several competitors’ tables.
The horde of judges, of which I was not one, was sequestered in a separate room across the hall. I’m not sure whether they all tasted everything (Bonanno alone made 17 dishes), or whether they somehow divvied up the tasting and compared notes. While they were sitting down while pigging out, my husband and I wandered around the ballroom, sipping wines and standing up while pigging out. We stopped to watch the paper-plating of the food and to chat with other guests while in lines waiting to taste the wonders. Westword’s Lori Midson was one of the judges and also was able to photograph the creative, elegant and creative presentations (not on paper plates) for the judges. Click here for her report and her mouth-watering images from what she called “The Super Bowl of Swine.”
Catering carts were required to ferry contenders’ presentations to the judges’ chamber.
Frank Bonanno (flagship Mizuna, plus Bones, Green Russell, Luca d’Italia, Lou’s Food Bar and Osteria Marco)
Partial presentation of some of Frank Bonnano’s 17 dishes as prepared for the judges. Chef Frank Bonanno offering sliders.

Jennifer Jasinski (Rioja, her first-born, plus Euclid Hall and Bistro Vendôme)

Kelly Liken (Restaurant Kelly Liken, Vail)


A smiling Kelly Liken passing out samples of pork and beans.

Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, Frasca Food & Wine, plus Pizzeria Locale and Caffe, Boulder

The Frasca team worked in unhurried but efficient harmony to plate dishes for guests.

Alex Seidel (Fruition and Fruition Farms)

A serve-yourself platter of Alex Seidel’s salumi.

And the Winner is…

…Alex Seidel of Fruition. Since I was not a judge, I didn’t have to sample every single one of the dishes. I picked and chose (which wasn’t easy, I’m here to tell you), and everything I tried was good, better, best. I live in Boulder, where it is easy to eat very well without including meat, but this pork-a-thon returned me to my Austrian roots. With the possible exception of sausages, my grandmother never would have dreamed of any of the dishes prepared for Cochon 555. What revelations all five chefs provided, and I cannot imagine more sublime tastes or greater creativity when the 10 winners go head-to-head at the Grand Cochon competition at the Hotel Jerome in Aspen at 3:00 p.m. on June 19.