Chef Competition Heats up in Irving

Written by Terrance Porter

Irving—The 10th annual charitable culinary competition Cochon555 made its first stop at the Four Seasons Resort Dallas at Las Colinas on Sunday, February 9.

Food, wine, whiskey, and even desserts made the room buzz with excitement as a DJ kept music playing, and everyone experienced the creations of some of the best area chefs.

In another room, half of a large Duroc pig from Augustus Ranch adorned a wooden table before it was expertly chopped and sliced into pieces as part of a butcher’s demonstration. For the second year in a row, Wilbert Dudley and Nathan Abeyta, from Deep Cuts, a Dallas butcher shop, demonstrated the parts of a swine that become sausage, bacon, ribs, racks, hocks, and loins.

“These days in the supermarkets, they have no idea how to do any this,” Abeyta said. “They just take it out of the box and throw it in a case. When we started the shop, we weren’t interested in that. We wanted to have the full picture and teach folks.”

Dudley is pleased that people want locally sourced meat.

“It’s coming around. There will be more neighborhood markets,” Dudley said. “They’re going to bring you whole pigs, drop off it, and tell you what they want off of it. One or two of us processing that animal for that individual will make it worth it again.”

The generation after Dudley began his profession sacrificed quality for cheaper prices and less wait time. Fortunately, some people seek out the best meat available.

Cochon is French for “pig” and the triple fives represent the number of competitors in two competitions: food and wine. The five chefs were each given a pig to create dishes for all attendees.

Running in tandem with the chef competition was the Somm Smackdown, where five local sommeliers were challenged to produce the best wine pairings to complement the menu of their partner chef. Daniel Miller of Grace in Fort Worth took home the honors, beating out Don Meyers of Sassetta, Adam Bernstein of Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, Morgan Wallen of Grape Passion and Aaron Benson of The French Room. Daniel’s selections included a 2014 Cantina della Volta Lambrusco Rosé and a 2014 Marabino Archimede Nero d’Avola.

The competing chefs included Lance McWhorter, Rich Vana, Andrea Shackelford, Anastacia Quiñones-Pittman, and Chef Christof Syré of LAW at the Four Seasons Resort Dallas at Las Colinas.

The crowd voted “Best Bites of the Day” title went to Chef McWhorter. Menu highlights included Whipped Lardo Rillettes with Caviar, BBQ Belly Burnt Ends and a Jambon Corn Dog. The newly crowned “Prince of Pork” will advance to represent Dallas at Grand Cochon, the national finale in Chicago this September.

While McWhorter went home with the trophy, Chef Pittman left the event with a new appreciation for cooking with locally sourced meat after meeting with local farmers

“The farmers really put a lot of work and love in raising animals, and it really shows in their products,” Pittman said. “I will definitely now be using Blackland Prairie. I think going out to the farm and seeing how they treat their pigs firsthand and seeing their surroundings, how they live and what they eat was really important for me.”

Sunday’s event raised money to benefit Texas’ Farm & Ranch Freedom Alliance, a national organization that supports independent family farmers and protects a healthy and productive food supply for American consumers, and The Council for Healthy Food Systems, its sister organization that provides science-based information to help consumers make choices that improve their health and that of the Earth. Cochon 555 Dallas also partnered with El Centro College to provide local culinary students with experience assisting the participating chefs and butchers.

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