Do you love pork, wine, bourbon, beer, music and fun? Then the return of Cochon 555 to Houston is a don't-miss event. The main event is on Sunday, but there are events on Friday and Saturday night as well.
The main event, Cochon 555 on Sunday, might be best described as decadence with a conscience. The 5’s stand for five competing chefs working with five heritage-breed pigs and five winemakers. It’s a huge walk-around event with a live pig butchery demonstration by Revival Market’s Andrew Vaserfirer. (The meat is auctioned off on the spot to help Houston culinary students.) No one goes hungry and there’s no shortage of grownup beverages.
Yet, as we explored last year with founder Brady Lowe, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Cochon 555 is a lot of fun, yes, but the point is to draw attention to the very small number of local ranchers who raise heritage-breed pigs.
People who eat pork might not think much about the quality, where it comes from or the environment in which the animals were raised. Even if the only thing someone cared about was how the meat tastes, he or she would care about this, because meat from well-cared-for animals is divine. (By the way, it’s well worth bidding on the pork at the live butchery. Imagine being able to grill collar steak and thick chops at home later on.)
Many of the participating chefs are James Beard semifinalists for this year. The competing chefs at Sunday's Cochon 555 are Jean-Philippe Gaston (Izakaya), Justin Yu (the chef at Oxheart, who was just named a James Beard semifinalist — again), Richard Knight of Hunky Dory, William Wright (chef at Helen Greek Food and Wine, which is a brand-new James Beard semifinalist for Best New Restaurant) and David Cordúa of Américas.
Each chef is teamed up with a heritage-breed pig farmer. The goal is to use as many parts of the pig as possible to make five outstanding courses for judges as well as plenty of small bites for the crowd.
Bobby Matos of State of Grace (owned by chef Ford Fry, a James Beard semifinalist for Outstanding Restaurateur) is overseeing a tartare bar, and Manabu Horiuchi of Kata Robata (yet another James Beard semifinalist) a ramen bar.
The featured winemakers are: Paul Draper (Ridge Wines), Rajat Parr (Sandhi Wines), Abe Schoener (Scholium Project), Jeff Pisoni (Pisoni Vineyards), Pax Mahle (Pax Wine Cellars) and special guest Matt Courtney of Arista Vineyards
The event is from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the JW Marriott Houston Downtown at 806 Main. A general admission ticket is $130.95. A VIP ticket gets attendees in an hour early and costs $208.
New this year is the ability to add on a Chef’s Course membership for $50. The membership entitles card holders to free tasting portions at certain restaurants around the country. According to the website, the Houston restaurants currently participating are Killen’s Barbecue and Down House. Cardholders also can use the membership for discounts at selected online retailers.
That’s still not even close to all that’s going on. There’s also a sommelier smackdown competition and a punch competition featuring local bartenders.
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Furthermore, there are two entirely separate fundraiser events on Friday and Saturday night. The first is the Asian Speakeasy pop-up at Izakaya, which honors the late-night Chinese, Sichuanese, Korean, Thai and Japanese hangouts known for feeding and inspiring chefs who work late hours.
The featured chefs for the Asian Speakeasy are host chef Jean-Philippe Gaston (Izakaya), Anthony Calleo (Pi Pizza Truck), Jordan Asher of the forthcoming Ritual, Adam Dorris of Pax Americana and Manabu Horiuchi of Kata Robata. Tickets are $130.
Saturday night’s feature is the Chef’s Course Dinner at Southern Goods. It features host chef Lyle Bento, Jonathan Jones of El Big Bad, Randy Rucker of Bramble, P.J. Stoops of Foreign Correspondents and Chris Leung of Cloud 10 Creamery. Tickets for the feast are $130.
To say that Cochon 555 really does feature some of the very best Houston has to offer is not an exaggeration. If you hate fun, this is not the event for you. Otherwise, grab a ticket while you still can.