COCHON 555 – A Tribute to the Pig
March 30, 2012
Today we are joined by Brady Lowe, creator of the much beloved COCHON555 event series that takes place yearly in 14 markets. If you have been lucky enough to attend, you will know that it is an unforgettable event filled with amazing food, education and overall celebration of all things pig, or “cochon” as they say in France.
Thanks for joining us Brady! Can you tell the Grilling.com community exactly what inspired you to create COCHON555?
First, I would like to give credit to my mom. She is an amazing cook, in my early years, I watched her pull ideas from hundreds of cookbooks and the TV was always running cooking shows with the funniest of characters.
Fast forward twenty some years and there I was in the middle of the food community in Atlanta trying to change the landscape for source-dedicated consumers via my wine and cheese pairing events. People were starving for education, they wanted stories about the producer, where does it come from, the background on species and talking points they could share with their friends. I was an educator and storyteller. Food was becoming a personal experience for everyone, especially me, and yet the conversation around responsible agriculture, whole animal utilization and heritage breeds was nonexistent. I decided to take my communications degree to the next level and take heritage breeds to a large national audience. The fortunate part of the story is the meaning of the pig signal found in all my branding. It was easy to associate with because of Batman! Today it is a signal in the sky for farmers across the country. The tour has become something more than just a food and wine event, the signal represents chefs looking for farmers raising heritage breed pigs and farmers looking for people to help support their business.
Now the tour is a beacon of hope for those looking to raise pigs and provides a national directory of chefs who care about the entire process of pasture to plate. Chefs want to know the animal all the way, including how what it was fed, where it lived and how it was processed.
COCHON is about connecting responsible people who do things the right way and I am so very lucky to be in the driving seat. It’s an absolute HONOR!
What exactly makes a heritage pig different from a regular pig? Why should the average consumer care about these different breeds?
First imagine the best, dry aged, special occasion steak paired with a premium wine. Do you remember that first bite and the following sip? How about the first INSANELY good chocolate cake? Now the store bought imposter doesn’t taste so good. The flavor of heritage pigs makes an impression. Heritage breeds have flavor profiles and different eating behaviors in different climates, combined with traceable genetics, as each hog is suited for different purposes. Heritage breeds are not genetically modified to live indoors, they are created by nature, intended to consume nature straight from the pasture and the resulting product is a blend of how it was raised (husbandry) and what it was fed. It’s a flavor-packed canvas of flavor for chefs, in comparison to the commodity hog, which is raised for specific purposes and industries. I’m not saying commodity is bad, because it serves a demand.
Heritage breed pig farms represent .5% of the market. It’s so tiny and not even a blip on the radar of those making hams and bacons for export.
My goal is to provide choices to chefs and to diversify the pig landscape so life is more interesting for us who care. The context of the event is better for the ecosystem, it’s better for the marketplace, and it provides choices. Buying into heritage pork is synonymous with putting your money directly into the farmer’s pocket and creating a diversified landscape of flavor for the future. The best part, heritage pork not super expensive, it just takes time to find a local farmer, butcher shop or restaurant buying from farms.
What happens at COCHON555? What does it take to put an event on?
The event is a snapshot of everything I love. It takes two people to try everything, to sip every wine, whiskey, spirit and brew. The food is amazing. The chefs are there to win; everything they make is their “Best Bite of the Day” and I need to make sure everyone votes for the winner. It really is a tasty event.
How many years has COCHON555 been taking place and what cities have been lucky enough to host?
We are now on our fourth year. As for cities, it’s the usuals such as Boston, New York and LA, plus others such as Des Moines, Portland, New Orleans, and Seattle.
What kind of people attend COCHON? What has been the response?
It’s all over the board but the one thing I know for sure is that they like to enjoy great food from amazing chefs, great wines and of course, pork. The best response has been almost selling out all 40 events in 4 years.
Any plans for expanding into new markets in 2012?
Memphis is our new baby. I am very excited about it. Additionally, I have been trying to break away and work on Taste Network, something on a larger scale than the COCHON project. So that is always on the back burner.
And we hear there are plans in the works for a BBQ contest this year. Anything you can share on that at this time?
You are 100% correct! Labor Day in Memphis, mark your calendar, America! Fine dining chefs enter BBQ and the invited include some of the most amazing chefs in the country. Imagine Memphis in May 25 years ago, but with the top chefs in America cooking their favorite BBQ inspired meal. Â The best way to describe it is a 3-day weekend at your favorite chef’s house. On Friday, there is kick-off party where we toast to National Bourbon Month (mixologists and mingling) followed by a choice of dinner and a movie or the pricey Master Distillers Dinner. Saturday morning, there will be a light jog (5.55K Run industry only) past all the city’s favorite BBQ joints, followed by college football with your favorite winemaker or take in all the culture Memphis has to offer. Sunday is a dedicated to BBQ and bourbon. It’s going to be special. I have been planning this for over 3 years.
Can you share with us some memorable moments from COCHON?
That would have to be sitting in a room with Chris Cosentino and Allan Bentonat the second COCHON555 in Napa on November 2, 2008. It was amazing to see two great people, whom I can’t imagine anyone being more dedicated, go back to back in the judging order. Then, Cosentino dropped the bomb on the judges and served them a dish called “fricola,” a mix of reproductive organs and offal, topped with “brainnaise”. The judges’ reaction was classic. Definitely one of my favorites. The other moment to this day was Cosentino’s bone dish. Man I wish he would cook COCHON555 one more time…
Amazing stuff and amazing work spreading the word of heritage pork! Best of luck and we can’t wait to check out the barbecue event later this summer!
Clint Cantwell, Grilling.com Editor
i found this article to be helpful Its grilling time here in Co