We Chatted with Chef Chris Szyjka as he had recently joined to participate in legendary cooking classic, Cochon555.
When we entered Cochon555, New Porc City 2017, we were instantly swept away into fierce competition for whole pig cooking. Brooklyn, New York marked the first stop for this multi-city battle, where the ultimate champions will be crowned in the Grand Cochon in Chicago later this year.
Cochon555 is an intense event for top chefs to celebrate heritage pigs one bite at a time. Created in 2008 as a response for a lack of educating of heritage breed pigs, this ‘nose-to-tail’ competition is dedicated to supporting family farmers and educate chefs and diners about the agricultural importance of utilizing Old-World livestock. Mom and Pop, farm-to-table, BBQ and Michelin Star restaurants are all worked with and share one core value: they source products responsibly.
The Sunday afternoon event was an epic culinary experience featuring heritage breed pork dishes of all kinds with chef-crafted tastings, along with 40+ types of boutique wines, craft cocktails and artisanal brews. On its eighth year, the Cochon555 US Tour is aligned with modern day good food movement – notable chefs, barrier breaking women and men, artist-like butchers, spirited bartenders and brazen pastry talent. Together the ticketed educational event showcases are enjoyed and shared, building a space for safer, honest food. A portion of all sales benefit The Piggy Bank Charity, helps family farmers with a foundation to gift heritage breed pigs in exchange for business plans. It supports existing farmers requiring genetics to diversify bloodlines or rebuild herds as a result of disease or natural disaster.
The inaugural NYC event, New Porc City featured five chef entrants: Chris Szyjka, Chefs Club By Food & Wine (Heritage Foods USA Old Spot pig); Nicole Gajadhar, Saxon & Parole (with Spring House Farm Large Black pig); Ryan Bartlow, Quality Eats (with Dogpatch Farm Mulefoot pig); Greg Baxtrom, Olmsted (with Autumn's Harvest Farms Berkshire pig); Aaron Hoskins, Birds & Bubbles (with The Piggery Mulesoft pig). Indeed, Chef Chris rendered valiant efforts. Chef Nicole from Saxon and Parole took the NYC prize and moved closer to victory. Each made narratives and tasty preparations that enticed and captured our senses.
In our upcoming feature, see Chef Chris preparing the final touches to his menu. Chef Nicole Gajadhar’s full menu and winning feast (with piggy banks, festive carnival tents, flying cotton candy pigs bearing her name and all). Also we have a glimpse of Chef Ryan Bartlow with ‘Quality Cochon’ coat, bringing out a full deli-style creation in all of its glory. We have a moment from the Punch Kings challenge, where Bryan Schneider, from Quality Eats dropped inherently award-winning cocktails, served in shiny gold trophies and find Kool Keith enjoying judging festivities. We see the Somm Smackdown and winner Nicole Hakli from ACME taking the win and DJ Lord from Public Enemy scratching some beats on the 1's and 2's. Our set ends with a dramatic frame of a whole heritage pig being artfully butchered and auctioned for charitable causes by Erika Nakamura and Jocelyn Guest from White Gold Butchers, and a nod toward Williamsburg’s Weylin Hall glorious ceiling, constantly delighting us all evening.