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NYC pig lovers rejoiced as the snow melted at Pier 60 for the 5th annual Cochon 555 event. The event would crown the “Princess of Porc” since five female chefs would be cooking five different heritage pigs from nose to tail. Chefs competed for 400 attendees and 20 culinary luminaries to vote one of their dishes the coveted “best bite of the day.” This winner would go on to compete against other chefs across the US for the overall title.

The event started by opening for VIPs, who were offered oyster, cheese bar and brews. They were also treated to reserve wines and spirits from the on site vendors. This event also launched the “Punch Kings Competition,” featuring Breckenridge Bourbon, prepared by 6 local mixologists.

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The main floor opened to all guests and as tasting attendees walked around each station, Sara Bigelow from the Meat Hook in Brooklyn, demoed the butchering of a whole pig. As much as I do love almost all pork products, all I could utter as I watched this smiling pig being cut into pieces for charity was, “poor pig.”

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The first contestant most people stumbled upon was Leah Cohen from Pig & Khao and Top Chef fame. During our lap we were able to try the fermented sausage and spiced chicharron in a paper bag, which was a little spicy for my taste. What was right up my alley was the pineapple glazed ham shot and the card to visit their restaurant to get a free drink!

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Missy Robbins from A Voce was next on the tour of the room and was the chef with the most dishes to offer attendees at one time. Missy’s take on liver and onions (Fegato) ham and eggs (Procsciutto Cotto) and bacon-filled pasta (Tortelli) helped her stand out against the other contestants.

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Next up was a line for Shanna Pacifico‘s table, representing Back Forty West. To make the wait more enjoyable, they were passing around Pork Face Nuggets and Limequat Caipirinhas, which were so strong in alcohol content that  it just about voted for you! Of Shanna’s dishes, the Feijoda and Pork Caramel Profiteroles stood out the most.

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By the time guests made it this far through the room, another portion of the space opened and two more chefs were introduced. Elizabeth Falkner of Krescendo took up the back right corner, offering up Black Tie Farfalle with Red Wattle Pork Sugo and Percorino and Lard Biscuits with Pork Belly Confit and Averna Caponato . When we asked if she was nervous, Elizabeth responded, “hell no!” She felt her food spoke for itself and also felt she had the best heritage pig to cook with, which was the Large Black from Majestic Farms.

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The last of the contestants and one of the more notable judges from Chopped, Alex Guarnaschelli of Butter, transformed her space with decorations for the Chinese New Year, which was also happening that day. Her dishes like Pork Shoulder Soup Dumplings and Lard Fortune Cookies also reflected the occasion.

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The provided beer, wine, and spirits may not have been the main focus of the event, but they did leave a lasting impression. Brooklyn Brewery, a local favorite, showcased, “There Will Be Black,” a beer from their reserve.  Elk Cove and Robert Kacher were also two notable wineries that paired perfectly with the dishes at hand.

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While guests voted, Sue Torres of Suenos gave a sneak peak of what the Cochon Heritage B.B.Q. event will be like on Labor Day. Much like Alex’s set up, Sue dressed up her tables with playful skeletons.

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All the chefs were invited to the stage to announce the winner for the evening, while Swine and Sweets offered chocolate and popcorn for anyone that wasn’t stuffed. Missy Robbins was crowned Princess of Porc in NY and will go on to compete against winners from 9 other cities in the Grand Cochon event at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen on Sunday, June 16.

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Guests were then invited to an afterparty at Resto, and the first 60 people to jump on invites were even given a complimentary bus ride over!

For more information on Cochon 555, please visit: http://www.cochon555.com/

- Stephanie C.