Cochon 555, the nationwide 10-city pork festival that made its first ever stop in Houston Sunday night, has a simple premise: five pigs, five chefs, five wineries. Over 500 people turned out for Sunday's event at the new JW Marriott downtown to sample the food, wine and cocktails.
While every chef portrayed the evening as a friendly competition, all the teams clearly came to win. In addition to the first place prize, which includes a trip to Aspen to compete against the winners from nine other cities, the winner earns bragging rights from having set the bar for future Cochon 555 competitors.
While every chef portrayed the evening as a friendly competition, all the teams clearly came to win.
That competitive fire resulted in a range of creative dishes that had attendees lining up for seconds. Each chef received a heritage pig from a local farm and has the task of creating up to six dishes.
On the culinary side, some of the highlights included Main Kitchen pastry chef Sharon Gofreed's bone marrow custard, Punk's Simple Southern Food executive chef Brandi Key's deviled egg, Ronnie Killen's Korean-style pork rib and the ham, egg and chesse biscuit from Coltivare's Marcelo Garcia.
Judges for the event included a Who's Who of Houston chefs, including Reef's Bryan Caswell, former Haven chef Randy Evans, Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan from The Pass & Provisions and Oxheart's Justin Yu, who did double duty by serving beef tartare made with three cuts of high quality Creekstone beef. The crowd also voted for their favorite, with the winner coming from a combination of the judges and people's choice.
After three hours of feasting, organizer Brady Lowe revealed the winner. Among all the big names, it was the darkhorse, Down House executive chef Mark Decker, who took the title. Of course, Decker had support from the full Treadsack team, which included two men with butchering experience in Hunky Dory's Richard Knight and Bernadine's Graham Laborde. Bar director Leslie Ross supplied Decker with a pork-washed bourbon satsuma cocktail to further bolster his entry.
Watch the video above for more from the scene. Lowe's already promised he'll come back next year. If the reaction of last night's crowd is any indication, Houston can't wait.