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When most folks think of Cochon555, what comes to mind is a lively nose-to-tail culinary competition and indulgent, porky dishes. But Cochon555 was established in 2008 to promote something deeper: the preservation of heritage breed pigs and the family farms that raise them.
This year, we told the story of one locally raised heritage hog’s journey from pasture to chef to plate. (Read parts one and two.) But only one chef could take home the title of Prince of Porc, and this year, it was Chef Will Nolan of Viceroy Snowmass.
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The crowd was boisterous, pork-fed, and impatient after waiting for almost four hours to find out who would be crowned the winner of the 2017 Denver Cochon555 competition. Each of the competing chefs—Bill Miner of Il Porcellino Salumi; Will Nolan of Viceroy Snowmass; Darrel Truett of Barolo Grill; Hosea Rosenberg of Blackbelly Market; and Burton Koelliker of Bonanno Concepts—had presented their five or six dishes to the judges (myself included), explaining their approach to the theme of global barbecue and their utilization of their heritage hog.
Truett followed the game plan for his Large Black pig, but he also surprised us by sprinkling fried chicharron bits over the hazelnut-smoked tomato romesco on his pancetta-wrapped grissini. Those breadsticks were one of my favorite bites of the evening; Rosenberg’s rich gumbo with Andouille, cotto, and fried boudin was another.
But it was Will Nolan who took home the prize—congrats, Chef!—and the chance to compete in Chicago at Grand Cochon on October 1. There, Nolan will cook another whole heritage pig and vie against 13 other regional winners for the title of King (or Queen) of Porc.
In the meantime, our local chefs will continue supporting the Colorado farmers and ranchers who raise heritage animals, including Berkshire Cone Ranch, Mountain Primal Meat Company, Boulder Lamb & Meats, McDonald Family Farm, and ACES @ Rock Bottom Ranch. And as diners, I hope we all do, too.