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Cochon555 crowns white-hog royalty

Punch Kings winner Dustin Nguyen, of Martina, celebrates the win with Cochon 555 founder Brady Lowe. 

The touring pork-washed bacchanal Cochon 555 made its annual trip to Minneapolis in March, showcasing some amazing pigs and incredible chef techniques. 

The chef contest featured five local chefs and their show-stopping takes on a heritage breed pig from the Midwest. The event is designed to support and elevate the usage of heritage pigs for their sustainability and their astounding flavors. Piggy Bank, the charity behind the events, also helps support the farmers who raise these unique pigs. 

For the Minnesota event, contestants were Timothy Fischer, executive chef at Loews Minneapolis Hotel (where the event was held); Daniel Del Prado of Martina and formerly at Bar La Grassa and Burch; Karyn Tomlinson, chef de cuisine at Corner Table and former winner of the Charlie award for Outstanding Pastry Chef; Russell Klein, owner and chef at Meritage and previous James Beard nominee for Best Chef, Midwest; and Remy Pettus, opening chef for Eastside and current owner of Bardo in Northeast Minneapolis. 

If that wasn’t enough star power, the event also featured Stephan Hesse and Tyge Nelson of Pajarito making some excellent tacos, plus there were a pair of beverage contests among the region’s star bartenders (in Punch Kings) and sommeliers (in the Somm Smackdown). Jessica Cak of Barbette manned a Tartar Bar and Mike Brown of Travail whipped up some very high-end versions of Dippin’ Dots. 

But to really emphasize pork at the center of the plate, Scott Pampuch, executive chef at Fulton Brewing Company and consultant at Clean Plate Hospitality, butchered a heritage pig onsite. The ribs, loin and even jowls were sold at a silent auction that benefited Piggy Bank. 

The event was also supported by a huge number of regional vendors and restaurants from Zen Box to France 44 Cheese Shop, Tl Tesoro Tequila, Boos Block and a slew of other bars, tables and piles of delicious food. In all, the event raised $10,500 for the charity. 

As in past years, it was a who’s who of restaurant folks, with nearly 600 restaurant insiders, chefs and foodies grazing and guzzling their way thorough what one astute Twitter user called “Porkhalla,” referring to the eternal party where Viking warriors gorge on meat and grog and celebrate. 

There was plenty to celebrate. The Bachelor Farmer’s Erin Rolek won the Somm Smackdown and Dustin Nguyen won the Punch King’s contest for Martina. Of course the big event was chef competition. 

All hail the Princess of Porc. 

Karyn Tomlinson’s incredible menu included blood pudding with pork jowl, a Sunday ham sandwich, Swedish spareribs, apple pie and indulgent, heart-stopping chicharron toffee. The star, however, was her family recipe for Swedish meatballs with sauce supreme, dill and caviar. They were rich, homey and supremely addicting. 

She used a Duroc and Yorkshire crossbreed pig from Hidden Stream Farm in Elgin, Minnesota. The pig is highly muscular but also marbled, making for sweet and juicy ribs and roasts. 

It marks the second win for Corner Table. Thomas Boemer was named Prince of Porc in 2015. He went on to become the King of Porc at the national competition. 

Here’s hoping Tomlinson is named Queen of Porc when she competes in Chicago this September. 

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