Eat.Drink.Dish MPLS had the privilege to attend the Cochon 555 U.S. Tour 2015 with V.I.P. status, and we are happy to share our wonderful, tasty experience with you. It was a chilly, gusty Sunday afternoon on March 1st, but the idea of tasting pork, prepared in more ways than I can even imagine, wiped those Minnesota winter blues clean away.
The moment we entered those big glass doors to the glamorous Loews Hotel, the smell of bacon made its way into my nose and my mouth immediately began to tingle with anticipation. Cochon 555, known as the country’s most talked about culinary competition, decided to celebrate National Pig Day right here in the heart of downtown Minneapolis. The entire idea behind the U.S. pork tour is to bring local farms into today’s emerging chef culture.
Five well-known chefs from around the Twin Cities are chosen, based off their top-rated restaurants and passion for masterful cuisine, to compete in a battle for the best pork dishes. From mini Chicago hotdogs topped with spicy peppers and onion wedged in the middle of a miniature poppy seed bun, to pork belly tacos topped with cilantro and a very amusing mystery hot sauce; I couldn’t stop loading my plate and my face! There were even servers making their rounds with platters bursting with chilled jars of mouth-watering, thick-cut bacon.
Of course with all that delectable, salty food you get thirsty. Dozens of wine, beer, and even tequila samples were handed out, but a certain local brewery called Sociable caught my eye. I fell in love with their dry—not too sweet—cider that happened to pair well with pork.
After a few brews, my photographer Megan and I continued to scan the room for interesting photographs, and friendly faces. Music continued to burst through the open doors into brightly lit event room and people were genuinely happy. One guy from a competing team decided to take advantage of the party and served dip from his huge sombrero, while his partner-in-crime fueled him with champagne straight from the bottle.
Although I could go on for pages on all the yummy dishes I savored, my favorites came from Chef Thomas Boemer and his team from The Corner Table, who took home the winning title. Their popular BBQ pork sandwiches seized everyone’s attention, including mine twice. The public had the chance to vote for their favored chef, including a handful of experienced judges—some from popular food competition shows. They sat like kings along a large, wooden table overlooking the biggest pig being prepared to be butchered by anxious chefs.
The opportunity to participate in this annual event was an honor, and it was nothing short of amazing food, company, and entertainment. Eat.Drink.Dish MPLS will be front and center at Cochon 555 2016 for even more sensational dishes to share.
Eat.Drink.Dish MPLS got the scoop on one of Minneapolis’ new, upcoming chefs, Spoon and Stable’s Gavin Kaysen. A notarized master of the culinary arts and a competitor at Cochon this year, the following interview takes us into humble Chef Kaysen’s personal and professional life:
Q: First of all, how does it feel to be the head chef of the hottest, new restaurant in Minneapolis?
A: There is a huge team here who works to makes this restaurant work, while the focus may be on one person; it is my team that pushes me and allows me to push them – that excites me on a daily basis. As with anything new, it will become less hot in the future, but our goal is to continue to push our diners and ourselves so that we stay a part of the conversation in America.
Q: Where did you grow up? And does it have an impact on your love for cooking?
A: I grew up in Bloomington, but I wouldn’t say that it was a major influence on my cooking, that came later in life. It started when I began to work for George Serra in Edina and then when I moved to California. Those areas really helped shape my vision and focus of food.
Q: When did you notice your passion for the culinary arts?
A: When I was 7 years old, I knew that I loved to cook for people, but when I was 15 years old, I really knew I had a passion for cooking and that I wanted to be a part of this industry.
Q: How do you feel about the Cochon 555 Competition? What are you preparing?
A: I have known Brady Lowe, the founder, for about 7 years now and helped him with the first Cochon 555 in New York City. I’ve been a part of every one since then. I love their intuitive thought process about helping grow the local community. While they call it a competition, and of course it is, it’s also about all of us chefs getting together to cook, which we can’t do often because we are all so busy in our own restaurants.
Q: Are you excited to see other local chefs competing in the same room? What do you hope to achieve from this pork contest?
A: I am very excited to see what everyone else is doing, but mostly, I am excited to see them and taste their creations. They’re all very talented chefs so there’s no doubt that the food will be great tonight!
Q: Where do you get ideas for new Spoon and Stable menu items?
A: Often, when I am driving, I’m thinking of new dishes. As we’re learning more about the local farmers here, we are becoming more inspired by what they can bring to our table.
Q: Why the name Spoon and Stable?
A: I have affection for collecting spoons and the space was a horse stable built in 1906.
Q: Last, but not least, please finish the sentence “I Eat.Drink.Dish…”
A: Great food with family and friends.
Chef Gavin Kaysen shared one of his favorite recipes with Eat.Drink.Dish MPLS that you can try at home:
Pancetta Tuile, Greek Yogurt, Pea Shoots, Lavender
1 K Fresh peas, blanched
1 K Frozen peas, blanched
920g Spinach, blanched
8ea. Onion, small dice
8ea. Leeks, small dice
2ea. Heads fennel, small dice
2 L chicken stock
2 L water
Method: Sweet onions, leeks, fennel add stock and water, cook for 1 1/2 hour, then strain through a chinoise. In a large pot of boiling water, blanch peas, never losing the boil to keep green, cook until completely tender. Blanch spinach as well and reserve. In a large vita prep, combine half frozen blanched peas and half fresh blanched peas and enough blanched spinach to keep the color green.