Cochon 555 is the event in which chefs are forced to prove their nose-to-tail philosophy is no idle, 3 a.m. bar talk. The contestants are required to break down full heritage pigs and prepare small, bite-size dishes using every part of the animal. It’s no easy task. Just ask Jamie Leeds, chef and owner of Hank’s Oyster Bar.
“It’s a good amount of time over the course of several weeks,” says Leeds, who estimates that she and her team put in about 20 to 30 hours preparing for Cochon. “It’s a big commitment. It’s a lot of work.”
But more than that, the event can push a kitchen staff beyond its daily comfort zone, particularly for someone like Leeds, whose team works predominantly with seafood. Preparing head cheese and cracklings and other offal-based bites can force cooks to discover talents they perhaps didn’t realize they had.
“It’s much harder” than other such events, Leeds says about Cochon. “It’s much more demanding. But the more demanding things are, the more satisfying they are.” Which is the reason why Leeds has put herself through the challenge not once but twice, including last year’s Cochon, won by Scott Drewno of The Source, who was crowned the Prince of Porc.
So which chefs will take up the challenge this year? Cochon just announced the five D.C. competitors. You can see the list after the jump.
Drewno, as it turns out, will be back to defend his title. He will compete against:
●Ed Witt of 701 (pictured above)
●Nicholas Stefanelli of Bibiana
●Mike Isabella of Graffiato
●Wes Morton of Art and Soul
The event will take place Sunday, April 22, at the Liaison Capitol Hill, 415 New Jersey Ave. NW. Tickets are $125 for general admission and go all the way up to $250 for VIP access. They can be purchased on Cochon 555’s Web site. The winner of the D.C. event will compete against other regional champions on June 17 at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Colo.●●