Heritage BBQ Cochon Competitions Coming Close to (but not TO) Nashville

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I've lobbied for a while for the Cochon 555 tour to add a Nashville stop to their competitive porkapalooza. For those who don't know, the Cochon events pair up chefs with heritage breed hogs to create elaborate snout-to-tail presentations that rival the Bocuse d'Or in their complexity. I figure that Music City has plenty of great chefs with a talent for working with whole hogs, and we would represent well in the national finals.

Last year, organizer Brady Lowe introduced a new aspect to his traditional format, adding a Heritage BBQ element to the competition in Memphis. The Heritage BBQ series is different in that it asks for an upscale version of downhome classic pit barbecue. Each competing team must present six plates that include four meats and two side dishes. The meats must come from distinct portions of the pig featuring different techniques: bone, muscle, pull and stew. The two sides must feature mayo and mustard respectively.

The weekend event is all-inclusive, and attendees enjoy plenty to eat and drink as part of the festivities. The goal of the Cochon 555 series is to educate the public on heritage breeds like Berkshires, Gloucestershire and Ossabaw Island hogs, so there will be informational activities during the weekend to help share the story.

Although Cochon 555 isn't coming to Nashville (yet), there will be two opportunities to experience the fun within a few hours' drive of our fair city. Heritage BBQ will kick off Labor Day weekend in Memphis on Aug. 30 with a party on the rooftop terrace of Beale Street Landing. Eight chefs will compete, including Memphis favorites like Ryan Trimm of Sweet Grass and Craig Blondis from Central BBQ. Travis Grimes, chef de cuisine at the Charleston outpost of Husk (OK, maybe our version is really the outpost, but we can claim primacy) will be making a road trip to try and bring home the bacon.

If you'd rather try to escape the heat a little by traveling north, there will be another Heritage BBQ opportunity at the 21C Hotel in Louisville on Sept. 8.

This competition is highlighted by Chef Ed Lee of 610 Magnolia and Levon Wallace, who will be competing on his home turf as the chef at 21C's excellent restaurant, Proof on Main. Considering September is National Bourbon Month and you'll be in the middle of bourbon country, you can imagine that some fine red liquor will also be flowing.

If neither of those work for you, there is a third Heritage BBQ event going on in St. Louis on Aug. 25, but I figured that might be a little out of driving distance for most Bitesters. If you do decide to go, let us know how it went.

For more information and tickets, visit the comprehensive Cochon 555 website.

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