At last night’s fourth annual S.F. edition of Cochon 555, Flour + Water/Central Kitchen chef Thomas McNaughton, with the aid of Salumeria chef Matt Sigler, took home the prize of Prince of Porc. Though chefs Traci Des Jardins, Anthony Strong, Jason Fox, and Nicolas Borzee all presented strong selections of pork creations to the judges and noshing public, McNaughton and Sigler’s dishes, like a crispy trotter with first of the season cherries, and a dessert “s’more” with a pork belly marshmallow and lardo caramel, won everyone over. “The timing could have been better,” said an exhausted McNaughton, who just opened a restaurant (Central Kitchen) nine days ago and also had to prep for this event. “But even though I said I’d never do this again, I did because I wanted to win.” (McNaughton previously competed at Cochon two years ago). He now goes on to compete at the Grand Cochon event at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen next month. We’ll bring you some photos of the food, and the event, as soon as our photographer recovers from his pork hangover. Update:The photos are in.
We didn’t eat this one, but chef Nicolas Borzee of Bouche brought along this bit of taxidermy for ornamentation. That was his plate at bottom right.
Borzee’s honey and soy-glazed belly with nut crunch was declared one of the better bites of the evening.
Locanda chef Anthony Strong brought along this drying rack to display his copiette, which are basically strips of jerky made from Campari-cured pork loin.
Another excellent bite: Strong’s arancini with blood sausage risotto, rolled in chicharones. This was the item he mentioned previously that was based on a Gushers candy.
Strong’s plate also included a skewer of grilled heart, liver, and belly with a salsa verde; a chilled offal salad called gelatina with thin strips of pig ear, trotters, tail, and sorrel gelatin; and a tonno di maiale with pork conserva, radicchio, and capers, based on his mom’s tuna salad.
The path to Traci Des Jardins’s table was marked with little pig flags.
Des Jardins’s huge mountain of chicharones.
Traci des Jardins’s plate was a bright and playful selection of Mexican dishes, including cochinita pibil roasted in banana leaf and served with pickled onions and a homemade panucho; salpicon with roasted loin and tenderloin, burnt tortilla salsa, and a chicharron; and a torta stuffed with delicious rib-and-belly carnitas with chipotle aioli and tomatillo-serrano salsa.
A particular highlight was her sopa de albondigas with some great spiced meatballs, pork broth, and verdura.
The ultimately triumphant McNaughton of Flour + Water, Salumeria, and Central Kitchen was pretty exhausted by the end of the night.
Here’s his plate, created in conjunction with Salumeria chef Matt Sigler, featuring four refined bites including a slice of smoked loin with spring vegetables and bagna cauda; a delicate pork roulade with pickled ramps and kohlrabi; and a perfectly seasoned broth served with a crackling and a couple of drops of brain aioli.
The highlight, and possibly a crowd winner for best bite: crispy pork trotter with pine nuts, watercress, and first of the season cherries.
Photo: Brian Smeets/Brian Smeets 2012
The Salumeria teams’s “s’more” with lard caramel and pork belly whipped into the marshmallow.
Last but not least was Commonwealth chef Jason Fox, who presented perhaps the most well-rounded plate in terms of utilization of the animal. He created a clever “pig’s liver cherry” which was an orb of paté coated in a cherry gelee with a cherry stem poking out of it; a delicious bite of pork belly (top left) with umeboshi, puffed black rice, and a mysterious, citrusy leaf everyone wanted to learn about: prickly ash.
Photo: Brian Smeets/Brian Smeets 2012
The crowd awaiting the results.
Former contestant Ravi Kapur returned as a judge. Here he is with his wife and son.
Traci Des Jardins with son and helper (left), and chefs Anthony Strong and Nicolas Borzee watch and wait.
Host and organizer Brady Lowe, celebrator of all heritage pigs, announced the winner.
And it was McNaughton and Sigler of the Salumeria team.
And here’s the whole gang, from left: McNaughton, Des Jardins, Sigler, Fox, Strong, Lowe, and Borzee.