Manabu Horiuchi (known as Hori) and the team from Kata Robata won Sunday's Cochon555 culinary event. As a James Beard semifinalist and the executive chef of Houston's best sushi restaurant, Hori began the day as the consensus favorite, and he didn't disappoint. Kata Robata's six-course menu that utilized meat from a Mangalitsa Red Wattle Cross pig from Chubby Dog Farm bested entries from four other local chefs.
Winning earned Hori the title of Houston's "Prince of Pork," and the opportunity to compete at the Grand Cochon in Chicago. The top prize is a four-day trip to the Spanish wine region of Rioja.
"The national competition gets more intense and dynamic every year, and the performance of the Houston chefs, somms, and barkeeps shows precisely why the city is at the forefront for culinary excellence in this country,” said Cochon555 founder Brady Lowe in a statement. “Chef Hori's winning dishes were bold, modern, thoughtful, and full of the kind of flavors that only enhance what heritage breed pigs have to offer."
Approximately 500 people ignored intermittent showers during Sunday's event at Hughes Manor. Silent auction items and helped raised over $7,000 for the Piggy Bank, which organizers describe as a "pig farming sanctuary (that) provides free genetics and access to shared business plans to emerging family farms."
Prior to presenting their dishes to the judges, competing chefs Monica Pope (Sparrow Bar + Cookshop), Luis Roger (BCN Taste & Tradition), Hori, Bobby Matos (State of Grace), and Felix Florez (Ritual) meet with Lowe.
Hori's winning plate (minus a shumai dumpling and a chicharron and chocolate dessert) provided an almost home-style version of his food that some judges considered to be more personal than the refined cuisine served at Kata Robata. Dishes include tonkotsu ramen (top) and, from left to right, mille-feuille katsu sandwich, grilled miso-marinated collar, and curry rice.
Jack Matusek, center, leads a butchery demo that involved breaking down a whole pig. Proceeds from the meat are donated to The Piggy Bank.
Monica Pope finishes plating her dishes.
Emily Tolbert (Del Frisco's), center, with William Meznarich (Victory Wine Group) and Lindsay Thomas (Pappas Bros. Steakhouse), didn't let the pressure of competing in the Somm Smackdown ruin her good time.
A number of chefs and restaurateurs, including Justin Yu (Better Luck Tomorrow), Morgan Weber (Agricole Hospitality), Philippe Gaston (Izakaya), David Cordua (Cordua Restaurants), and William Wright (Helen Greek Food & Wine) evaluated the cocktails entered into the Punch Kings competition.
State of Grace chef Bobby Matos presented a "pig-nic" basket in a picnic basket. Dishes included: smoked pork matzah ball soup, Tijuana hot dog in a bacon and pork fat bun, al pastor taco in a chicharron shell, and peach pie with malted blood ice cream.
Judges meeting with Lowe to receive final instructions. Participants included past competitors like Brandi Key (Clark/Cooper Concepts), Richard Knight (formerly of Hunky Dory), Dominick Lee (Kiran's), the participating sommeliers, and media judges.
Ritual co-owner Felix Florez describes his menu to the judges. The six courses attempted to cover most of Texas' culinary history, including Bun Bo Hue, a kolache topped with liver mousse, pork and beans with brown sugar cassoulet.