Brady Lowe is the founder of Cochon 555 , the traveling Heritage pig happening that's coming to Louisville Sept. 8 at 21c Museum Hotel (the place with the red penguins). According to the press release, "the Cochon US Tour is dedicated to practicing social and environmental responsibility, while continuing whole animal education through flavorful experience." Cochon will accomplish this goal by having five teams of chefs "prepare one plate showcasing the whole hog in six distinct dishes comprised of four meats and two sides."
Here, Lowe explains why Louisville, why these chefs and why Heritage.
Describe what the event is going to be like for our readers who aren't familiar with it.
There's a couple of cool factors. One is it's National Bourbon Month. I have a huge love for bourbon. And my huge affinity for heritage pigs with the Cochon 555 tour and friends with all the chefs across the country, we kind of have this rock star lineup of pig, bourbon, wine, brews. You're in for a treat. You walk in, you get oysters. Then you go into a big cheese bar. Then there's a butcher demo. Then there's the five chef who each get a 200-pound heritage pig, they're all different species. They're doing basically whole pig on a plate. And the goal is for these restaurants to see the benefit of putting one whole pig on a plate doing four meats and two sides. So it's bone, pull, muscle stew and a mayo and a mustard side. If you have a 200-pound pig, you can get about 400 servings off an animal, single plates. Which, in turn, is a moneymaker. Theyre supporting family farms. So basically you get to eat this new style of whole-animal BBQ. Like going and eating a Korean BBQ meal or, something you go to a restaurant for and you pay $25 for easily. You know, you get a lamb dish or a pig three ways on a plate or a duck two ways, that kind of style.
Why did you choose Louisville to add to the tour?
Sarah Fritschner, who is leading the farm-to-table initiative, gave me a call and just said, "You know, check out what's going on here in Louisville. We've got a tobacco settlement and there's a lot of interest right now in bringing young and up-and-coming farmers into the food system, or into the good food system." She's like, "I think a BBQ event like Cochon 555 would be a great way to kind of put a hyper message together that food can be sexy, food can be healthy and good and elegant and more flavorful. It just helps generate the conversation."
She calls me and says, "What a great place." I start doing my homework. You know how you have great chefs. I start to find that everyone in the market is super into hyperlocal right now. It just all started connecting.
How were the chefs selected? [The competing chefs teams will be led by Edward Lee and Kevin Ashworth of Milkwood, Coby Lee Ming of Harvest, Tyler Morris of Rye on Market, Annie Pettry of Decca and Levon Wallace of Proof on Main.]
Everyone was basically selected on their support of local. You can look at their menus and you can see that they're trying to put a BBQ dish on here or there. Or there's a Korean BBQ influence. Or they're doing something on their menu that says even though I don't have a BBQ restaurant, I want to have it involved someone in my delivery of my menu.
Additionally, they're just champions for local food. How you kind of get that status is by putting people's names on your menu. If you put a farm name on your menu, it means that farm is responsible and the chef is responsible for that food. If you put Heritage breeds on your menu, you don't necessarily have to say farm. It's kind of like they're helping promote the farms.
Why the decision to focus on heritage breed?
When I started five years ago, there just wasn't a conversation about it. It was what I call a whisper. And when people are not confident about an entire protein group, it just was this niche opportunity to take an education model, which was my background, education on products. I was doing wine and cheese and pork just happened to be that next stair step up in proteins and nobody knew much about Heritage pigs. It was just kind of a light whisper. And now it's a full raging conversation around the country. An the pig's awesome. It's flavorful as hell.
In other cities, what's it taken to win the competition?
The chefs who tend to win are cooking for themselves. They're cooking what they love to eat. And they're cooking in peaks and valleys. So they're not flat towing a certain layer of just fat through all the dishes. They're hitting peaks and valleys. So they're going high acids, they're going low bases. And they're gonna get like a crunch. And then they're going to get a pastry or a sweet. But they're hitting all the high notes and low notes. And they're kind of taking the diner along for a ride, a roller-coaster rather than a country drive.
Where do you see this going in five years? What will Cochon 555 be like five years down the line?
I think it's going to be a reminder that there is this food and wine tour promoting good food and that there's a lot of expert tied to it. Cochon is moving toward this kind of educational resource and kind of a stabilizer for a sustainable system. You can have a trend, but my job is to stabilize it. Cause it's going to go up and then it's going to want to drop. And my job is to catch it, and that is where things are sustainable. If I can great that resource with the tour, than that's where I see it in five years: a sustaining resource for people cooking and raising animals.
That is all I have. Anything else I should ask you that I didn't?
And this is Louisville?
Yep. Ever been here before?
Oh yeah man, I love it. It's a good town. From me going around the country, I think Lousiville has one of the most authentically enthusiastic conversations that I've seen in five years in a city. I spend three or four weekends in a city before I pick it. And I eat. And I meet everybody. And I get to know what's going on. And I kind of harvest the market for buddies and friends and learn as much as I can. And Louisville's at the top of the line right now.
You can buy tickets to Cochon 555 ($125-$200) at Cochon555's website. It's Sept. 8, 5:55 p.m. at 21c Museum Hotel. Want to go for free (duh)? Enter our contest.
·Readers Vote: Louisville's 8 Best BBQ Restaurants [~ELOU~]
·Whole Hog Pairs Quite Nicely with Pappy Van Winkle Bourbons at Proof's Hog & Barrel Dinner [~ELOU~]
[Photo: Courtesy Cochon 555]