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Serious Pork Skills On Display At Cochon 555

By Anthony Todd in Food on Apr 30, 2012 9:00PM

Between Baconfest and Cochon 555, April's major food events have sated the porcine cravings of Chicago foodies for months to come. We may have to go vegetarian for a few weeks to make up the difference. Last night, five of Chicago's best chefs got together to show what creative things could be done with whole heritage pigs. There was blood, organ meats, bacon and enough pork fat to submerge a Volkswagen.

The main attraction were the chefs and restaurants. Five were invited to participate; celebrity chef event standbys Stephanie Izard and Mike Sheerin were joined by Jason Vincent of Nightwood, Carlos Gaytan of Mexique and Danny Grant of Ria. We were particularly excited by the addition of Gaytan, whose Noble Square restaurant doesn't get nearly enough attention from Chicago's foodie nerds.

Vincent took home the big win, with a platter that included a ginger blood pudding, a butterscotch bacon donut (a Nightwood standard), and a pork aspic. He'll head to the National Grand Cochon competition in Apsen's Food and Wine Classic, and we are rooting for him to become the "King of Porc." If there was a quirky cuteness award, it would've gone to Izard, whose dishes riffed on fast food staples. Our favorite was a blood "blizzard" (think Dairy Queen) that we imagine would have the company speed-dialing their lawyers to avoid being associated with. It's a shame, because it was amazing - blood gelato combined with smoked pork fat oreos and topped with bacon.

The spectator favorite of the evening was Rob Levitt, of Butcher & Larder, who butchered a whole pig on site - something we're sure does not happen every day at the austere and dignified Four Seasons Hotel. Portions of the finished butchery were given away as prizes to a host of lucky guests. There was a special BBQ by host chef Kevin Hickey (of Allium), a giveaway from Le Cruset, a Perfect Manhattan Bar, cheese, oysters, wine, and shots of booze poured through an ice sculpture of a pig. All in all, definitely worth the $175 expense. If you didn't make it to Cochon, take a look at the pictures and start exercising for next year.