St. Louis' food culture will be recognized on the national stage this summer, thanks to Cochon 555, a premier culinary event that will bring together some of the area's very best chefs to see just what they can create with the pig.
Cochon 555 is a series of national events spotlighting the sustainable farming of heritage breed pigs. Held annually since 2008, the Cochon tour crosses the country, hosting a variety of tasting and cooking events showcasing friendly competitions between chefs. At each event, five regional chefs each create a nose-to-tail menu from a single 200-pound heritage breed pig. The finale of the tour takes place June 16, when the top 10 winners from the various national contests compete for the title of King (or Queen) of Porc, determined by 20 selected judges as well as the hungry audience. Cochon also is about raising funds: As of last year, Cochon had donated more than $270,000 to charities and paid more than $400,000 directly to farmers across the country.
Along with the tour, there are other Cochon-related events happening across the country, and St. Louis will be hosting one of them: On Sunday, Aug. 25, the Heritage BBQ will be held at the Four Seasons Hotel downtown, featuring a heritage pig BBQ cook-off between five local chefs and marking the first time that St. Louis has hosted a Cochon event.
Heading up the St. Louis chef contingent for the porcine extravaganza is the Four Season's own Fabrizio Schenardi, and he'll be playing host to a group of the area's finest chefs, including Gerard Craft (Niche, Pastaria, Brasserie, Taste), Kevin Willmann (Farmhaus) and Kevin Nashan (Sidney Street Cafe). Rounding out the roster is surprise guest Matthew Accarino, executive chef for SPQR in San Francisco.
The event will be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see five culinary talents of this caliber working this closely together. Of course, all the chefs know their way around the pig, so the competition promises to be tight; and skill-wise, they all are at the top of the foodie pyramid. Before joining the Four Seasons in 2010, Schenardi worked in some of the finest hotel kitchens in the world, including the Pelagia Trattoria in the Renaissance International in Tampa, Fla. Craft, Nashan and Willmann are former James Beard Award nominees; and in 2011, Craft and Nashan both participated in the Cochon Heritage Fire event held in St. Helena, Calif. During his rise through the ranks, Accarino has worked with some of the top culinary names in the world, including Tom Colicchio, Todd English and Thomas Keller, among others.
Competition aside, though, education and camaraderie are the first order of business.
"It's going to be a great way for some local chefs to get together," according to Schenardi. "I love to work with all them—it’s a good group of people."
As a prelude to the festivities, on Saturday, Aug. 24, Schenardi will prepare a four-course dinner that will feature Accarino and Cochon founder Brady Lowe. For tickets the dinner and the BBQ, call Cielo Restaurant & Bar at the Four Seasons, 881-5800, or visit amusecochon.com/2013/heritagebbqSTL.