Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Cochon 555 2020 Reflection

Hello Everyone,
It’s been a while since I last posted anything here. Now that I’m stuck at home enjoying my “summer break” during this crazy crisis I thought I’d rev up my old two finger typing technique and restart this blog.
  Last Sunday, March 8th, before all the shut down on large groups in NYC and everywhere, I once again had the privilege and honour to judge and attend another Cochon 555 event at the Altman building in Manhattan. The dishes were superb, as usual, at this annual event. The chef’s creations and inventive excellence shows why the pig is a perfect nose to tail menu item. The event celebrates heritage breed pigs and its main focus over the years has been to showcase the attributes of quality heritage pork and small farmer contribution to the growing of these animals. Craft’s porchetta, Little Park’s Adobo Ribs, Hudson and Charles pressed pulled pork, Bar Boulud’s Fete du Cochon, and Almond’s Pâté almond were just some of the bites that stood out for me....and there were plenty others.
Cochon also features a whole hog butchery demo and this year featured Liz Clarke from Sullivan County Farms which delivers local meats and farm products into NYC. The pig was sold off to the attendees and some of my students assisted.
 So heritage breed is no longer a new thing in restaurants. We see it advertised on many quality trending menus. So what has changed in the pork industry overall? There are some restaurants that develop a relationship with smaller farmers and local distributors like Sullivan County. Others buy from established meat purveyors that have also brought in local or regional heritage breed pigs. Companies like Fossil Farms and Debragga and Spitler, Dartagnon, distribute very high quality pork. These mid-sized companies are where most chefs in NY find their heritage pork.
 Some bigger companies have tried to muscle in on the heritage/ high end pork market. The biggest is Smithfield/ Farmland with their Prime Pork brand which was once called Duroc Pork for the dominant breed used to create it. This pork is fed no growth promoting beta-agonists which insures more marbling etc. ( Why they grow their other pork with growth promotors is another question, and possibly another blog post later) Snake River Farms, known for their Wagyu beef, also does a high end Kurobuta pork which is basically Berkshire. These products are available nationwide and by large distributors.
  Do customers really look into where their pork is from or what it is fed? Are chefs willing to spend the extra to support local”ish” farms? I think as many customers in quality restaurants move away from a meat centric diet and eat less of it, they are willing to spend extra on something really good when they decide to eat it. The heritage breed market may have flattened out a bit but it is still strong and hopefully, once we get over this crazy virus time, we can get back to enjoying the good stuff.