I am a carnivore. (Ok, in reality, I’m an omnivore. No need to pick nits). But, I like to believe that I’m a responsible carnivore. I try to live as closely as possible to the statement I’ve heard many nose-to-tail chefs make: If you’re going to kill an animal for sustenance, you need to respect that animal and use all of it. Period.
That’s just a small piece of the mission of Cochon 555, an annual multi-city event set up to bring attention to sustainably farmed heritage pigs. Going straight to the source, Cochon 555 does an immense service to both the farm AND the table, helping to establish personal connections between farmers and chefs. It certainly doesn’t hurt when several hundred people get fed in the process!
This year, Cochon 555 makes its way to Boston on March 24th, at the Revere Hotel Boston Common. I recently had the opportunity to check in with the founder of Cochon 555, Brady Lowe. We touched on why he started Cochon, the impact its had, and his favorite moments of the events.
Foodie Journal: To have founded something like Cochon 555, there has to be a serious love of food. Did you have an “ah-ha” moment where you realized that you loved food enough that you wanted to get involved with the food industry, or did you just always love food?
Brady Lowe: I always loved food. I remember the first time in my mom’s kitchen watching her make pork chops, white rice and gravy, OH – Lawry’s Salt – I was hooked!!! Land o’Lakes Butter, White Rice and Lawry’s Salt, are you kidding me? Add pork chop and pan gravy, it was heaven. Then it was onto my cereal craze, Rice Chex and table Sugar, another moment. Then I hit a drought, until I was on Ragbrai in 1995 in Iowa (boozy bike ride across through small towns) and fire-roasted Sweet Corn Dipped in BUTTER – Corn dogs at the Iowa State Fair with yellow mustard, and teaming up with my dad to make his sweet rolls, which I promise, I will make famous some day. It was a string of moments that gave me the hunger. Food is awesome, people raising it, making it feel good, working hard to make it taste better, and knowing that people are sourcing it from the right sources makes it feel honest. I am fighting the good fight and I am very fortunate for all these moments to have led us on such a journey of flavor each year.
FJ: It’s mentioned a bit on the Mission page of the Cochon site, but can you just talk a little about what led you to found Cochon 555?
BL: There wasn’t any confidence regarding breeds in kitchens in Atlanta when I was working FOH & BOH. It was a long slow drift of eyeballs when people asked about Kurobuta or Berkshire. I am telling you, it was hard the first two years to find farms, chefs, in every market. With Cochon, I found a niche to make a difference and tie in a lot of conversations at the same time. It was just a matter of time until I tied my passions all up in one. I keep wondering, what would it be like out there if Cochon was not founded. What would I be doing?
FJ: Why do you feel its important for people to be aware of heritage breeds?
BL: Because heritage pig is honest food, it tastes better, and you can feed it to your kids without any damn hesitation. Some stuff out there, NO WAY, it wont go near my family. I still laugh when I find a (not to be named) ham in the fridge of my girlfriend’s father. I want to wrestle him to the ground and throw the ham out the window. I am not sure if its because I know what that meat stands for versus what real honest food stands for. We all have a choice. But, I think that is why people need to be aware of heritage breeds. It reminds us that we have a choice.
Take for example, going to the store, wanting to buy commodity pork for entertainment value. How many choices do you have? Now, go to a honest butcher shop these days, how many options do you have? You have tons! You can cook something new, you can be educated, the pork has flavor, it feels good. That’s the choice I want for me, and my family moving forward.
FJ: Can you talk a little bit about the impact that Cochon has had on the farmers that raise heritage breeds?
BL: For certain, I know we have created some great relationships. We even have a couple farmers working together to preserve species or create new ones. Our conversation runs deeper than the event, we work behind the scenes at each event to give each farmer the best shot at meeting chefs they may not know yet. Most times, they form relationships that are still working. Thats sustainability, not a label on a box.
FJ: What’s your favorite part of the Cochon 555 events?
BL: Announcing the winner first. Second is the judging, and getting to eat all the food. I also love the stress a little, does that make me strange?
FJ: Most food lovers have a favorite food memory. Can you pick out a favorite to share?
BL: I love it just about anytime that my girlfriend finds something tasty at the event and runs over to me and stuffs it in my mouth. I had a bunch of memories growing up as I mentioned, but Heather’s finds are something I treasure, her excitement makes me feel good.
The Cochon 555 Boston event will be held Sunday, March 24th, at the Revere Hotel Boston Common. Tickets start at $125.
Each Cochon 555 event
challenges five local chefs to prepare a menu created from the entirety of
heritage breed pigs for an audience of pork-loving epicureans and celebrated
judges. Competing chefs at the Boston event include: Jody Adams (Rialto / Trade), Michael LaScola (American Seasons), Michael Scelfo (Russell House Tavern), Brian Young (Citizen Public House), and Colin Lynch (Menton). For additional details, and to purchase tickets, visit the Cochon 555 website.
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