Give a pig rock star status and you’ve got Cochon 555, the four-year-old culinary tour where five chefs from five cities compete by making dishes from five heritage pigs.

Cochon 555’s fifth stop this year was San Francisco, specifically at the Fairmont Hotel last night. I’d never been to one of Cochon 555’s event, but luckily was invited as a guest to the San Francisco event.

Traci des Jardins' team preps the "salpicon," or chicharron with roasted pork loin, burnt tortilla salsa, carrots and jicama

San Francisco was well represented by the city’s own rock star chefs competing for the chance to battle the four other Cochon winners from previous cities at the upcoming Aspen Food and Wine Festival. Battling locally last night were Traci des Jardins of Jardiniere (and a seasoned competitor in “Top Chef Masters” and “Iron Chef America”), Nicolas Borzee of Bouche, Anthony Strong of Locanda, Jason Fox of Commonwealth, and tag-team Thomas McNaughton (of Flour + Water) and Matt Sigler (of the new Central Kitchen) representing the yet-to-open Salumeria.

Each chef were given a heritage pig and had a week to create dishes using every part of the pig. At last night’s event, the chefs offered between five to six tasting dishes. There were cracklins, chicharones, pork belly, pork loin, as well as dishes using kidneys, hearts, and blood sausage.

Judges included local chefs such as Chef Ravi Kapur, left, and Brandon Jew, right

A judging panel tasted the offerings prior to the event opening to the public, and the judges included farmers, chefs, and media representatives. Their votes counted for 49 percent. The paid public came in later, tasting the various offerings along with wine from five local wineries, and they voted for their favorite dishes, making up 51 percent of the vote.

At the end of the night, the team of Chefs McNaughton and Sigler were named the winners of the San Francisco Cochon 555 and will compete in the grand prix in Aspen. As for me, I busted my cholesterol-reducing diet of vegetables and fish as I munched on pork belly coated in chocolate caramel and bacon. But it was well worth it.

OK, I'll reveal that I voted for the dishes from Chef Nicolas Borzee of Bouche restaurant. It included this rich tasting honey soy pork belly and a head cheese with horseradish foam

Chefs only had a week to prep their pigs, so they can only do minimal curing. Locanda Chef Anthony Strong made these coppiette, which was cured with campari, peroni, and fennel pollen

The crowd gets excited about watching Dave the Butcher break down a whole heritage pig -- live!

After everyone tasted the food from the five chefs, the people behind Magnolia Brewery in the Haight put out this spread to demonstrate the BBQ pop-up they're planning this year. It was a crazy amount of food.

The winners: Chefs Thomas McNaughton (left) and Matt Sigler (right)

There’s a lot more to see from the event, so I’ve pulled them all into the slideshow below. As always, you can find this slideshow and more in my Exhibits section.

4 Responses to Cochon 555 Makes a Last Stop in San Francisco

  1. Sandy says:

    Ben– what a treat! I was lucky enough to go to the Napa competition and this looks amazing as well! I’m personally a Tom McNaughton fan so I’m glad he won. Looks like a great time and your pictures show the pig-fest perfectly 🙂

  2. Carolyn Jung says:

    That is always such a fun, porky time. Glad you got to go. Watching the butchers in action is always mesmerizing.

  3. With intricate and creative bites like those served up at Cochon 555, it is definitely worth busting your veggie + fish diet (and busting out those elastic pants) for that pork-laden affair! I think I would have voted for horseradish foam guy as well, as that sounds like a delicious science experiment that I would want to “experiment” in my mouth!

  4. Perrin Clark says:

    Ben – we voted for Nico Borzee as well but he had our Berkshire pork so we are kinda biased! Thanks for profiling it! Love your site.