NYC Pork lovers rejoiced as Cochon 555 held the NY leg of their 4th annual tour at the enchanting Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers. Five local chefs were given five different types of heritage pigs, and attendees were invited to pair the dishes with wines that were offered from five different wineries. Those fives chefs competed to achieve the favorite dishes of the night, voted on by a panel of judges and attendees. The winner of the night continues on to compete in the final competition in Aspen later this year.
Upon entering the venue, guests were greeted with a welcome cocktail sponsored by the King’s Ginger. After surveying the options, it was hard to save appetites for the heritage pig dishes when there were tantalizing cheeses offered by Murray’s Cheese and the freshest oysters provided by Black River Caviar. Attendees were also treated to centerpieces filled with Benton’s sugared crispy bacon in mason jars.
The contestants worked away on supplying their dishes to hungry partygoers as Cesare Casella, Dean of Italian Studies at the International Culinary Center, (He was at the IDIC VIP Gala earlier that week,) began carving up an entire pig on the center stage of the event.
The chef’s table that was closest to the entrance was recently appointed Iron Chef America, Marc Forgione. When asked how his team had come up with the menu for the evening, he answered honestly that they had sat down, opened up some beers and decided on a menu that they themselves would enjoy. Forgione’s offerings, included the Elvis Presley Whiskey, with hints of bacon, banana and peanuts. The combination was so good it just might have aided in his win for the night.
Next to their table, Shauna Sargent’s team worked on Betto’s dishes for the night. Offerings ranged from a liver mousse, to a mini chocolate tart topped with caramel popcorn, to a play on a classier but still tasty pork and beans dish.
Ralph Kuettel’s Trestle on Tenth did the best job of not only branding their table during the competition with their pig cartoon, but also with clearly displaying what the table would be preparing for the contest. Their plates did not skimp on serving sizes and their bacon caramels, although smaller, still exploded with flavor.
The award for most humorous team would have to be Damon Wise’s Monkey Bar. It was apparent they did not take themselves too seriously immediately upon viewing their executive chef’s graffitied photo on the table. Utilizing eggshells for dishes and serving pork sliders on a picnic tablecloth made this a perfect menu for any barbecue.
The most innovative table of the night had to be Bobby Hellen’s Resto/Cannibal team. The dishes were all whimsical while simultaneously complex on the palate. Serving dishes that looked like they could be part of a floral arrangement or tasted like they could be candy when they actually pork were two reasons that this table had some of the most interesting dishes of the competition. This event was the first where I had eaten so much that I fell into a food coma before the event was event over, and that was not an easy feat! This can only be a testament to the amazing dishes that all the chefs prepared that kept me going up to the tables for seconds and sometimes even thirds!
Congratulations to Marc Forgione for taking home the win! I hope you make New York proud when you compete in the final competition at the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen. Then again, you won Iron Chef America, so I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to hold your own. And if you happen to have any extra bottles of the Elvis Presley Whiskey, I’d be glad to take them off your hands!
– Stephanie Carino