“I’ve been on the pig trail for a couple years,” laughs Brady Lowe. The “pig trail” isn’t any particular road; rather, Lowe has spent three years building his own trade route, one that connects heritage breed pig farmers to butchers and chefs that feel the lure of pure-bred pedigreed livestock. On Sunday, Las Vegas will reap the benefits.
The All-Star Cochon, held at the Cosmopolitan on July 24, is the culmination of Lowe’s national Cochon555 tour, a competition that taps five pigs, five butchers and five chefs at each stop in a porcine battle for bragging rights. The Vegas edition functions like the Pro Bowl of the Pork, creating a truly epic feast with the help of 14 heritage pigs, 4 star butchers and 10 past chef competitors from revered kitchens like Michael Mina (San Francisco) and the French Laundry. There will be butchering demos, craft beers and, for guests who spring for the VIP ticket, artisanal cheeses, reserve wines and a champagne toast. And of course, there’ll be dish after dish of lovingly crafted, expertly cut, brilliantly cooked pig.
But the event is more than an excuse to gorge on bites like bacon batter waffles with bacon gelato and bourbon cherries infused with, yup, more bacon (though that plate from the 2011 tour winners is on the menu). Cochon is a celebration of swine and of whole animal utilization, the practice of putting every possible ounce to use, whether a chef is working with tasty loins or extra skin.
“Pig’s just a magical animal,” says Lowe. “Every single piece of that animal from toe to snout is a canvas of flavor for a chef to create with.”