Locally Grown

“Chef Leon’s” Big Cochon555 Adventure and People Under The Stairs After-Party

As promised, I have a little more Cochon555 coverage for you. Very little. So little, in fact, that it is basically just a silly story and some complaining. Maybe some fashion commentary. I am not sure yet, it hasn’t been written. Read on if the mood strikes you, if not go back to reviewing the 1000 winners of the freshly announced James Beard Foundation Awards (of which DSM nominees got a big fat goose egg. More on that later.) Bon Apertif!

You may remember a few time units back I ran a little piece on Chef vs. Not Chef vs. Total Fraud. Not long after said articled “dropped,” a situation arose which screamed, in the words of that guy on the couch in the movie P.C.U., “That’s my thesis, man…that’s my thesis!” Shortly after the Cochon555 winner Matt Steigerwald (Lincoln Cafe, Mt. Vernon, IA. Back to back wins) was announced and the victory speech was executed, the customary “Post-Game-On-Field Handshake” began. The Lincoln Cafe crew was walking through the crowd congratulating the other competetors on a “Good Game.” They walked past my team…

To Hal Jasa: “hey, great job, Chef. Good stuff.”

To Yours Truly: “nice job, Chef. Plates looked great.”

To Leon: “thank you, Chef…Good job.”

(I really wanted to “annon-o-mize” Leon, but Bathory likes his name and said it would be a shame to insult his parents’ choice of prefered nomenclature.)

Chef Leon was born! I hear that Leon can cook, is a competent server/bartender (Baru 66. Go see him), and now thanks to the power of words, He has been Knighted CHEF LEON.

You see how easy that was? All you need is someone to call you Chef accidentally and there you have it. Now, Leon doesn’t consider himself a chef but we had a good laugh about it at the after party at Racoon River Brewing Company (who kinda dropped the ball IMHO). You don’t even have to make false chef claims when you have others to do it for you. Chef Leon has no plans on continuing along his un-chosen career path as a “chef,” but rumor has it that a few others in that category here in our fair city will be plugging away as Self Proclaimed Chefs while attempting to figure out how to live up to the Title. Thank you to Chef Leon, a man with some dignity.

And now for something completely related,

I heard a rumor that Cochon555 could have used a few more tickets sold this year. True Story. The crowd seemed a little sparse and was made up of mostly attendees from last year’s Cochon event. Not a lot of new faces aside from vendors and competitors. Here are some helpful advices for the future:

1. Advertising. There was practically zero advertising for the event. It wasn’t even listed in the free events sections of our local weekly “magazines.” This IS a travelling event, but maybe should have a local “street team” to work the social media and marketing. Just a few people to create a “buz” could have gotten a few more people in the doors and enlightened as to Cochon555’s good cause (heritage farming awareness) and gotten more exposure for the Chefs and Wine Makers. (Brady, if you see this, get in touch…I know some good helpers for next year)

2. Social Networking Media. Twitter, Facebook, and the like could have been utilized more. Take it from me, it works. Also, see “street team” suggestion above.

3. Many people felt the ticket prices were too high. I disagree (even though I admit to receiving free admission both years). Face value of the tickets was a great deal…$100 for all you can eat and drink from local wineries and fine chefs (and Leon), but I overheard people scoffing. People who had no idea of what a deal this event really is. Maybe make the tickets…$80? Maybe advertise the decadence that is included with the $100 ticket price, not to mention the Extreme Decadence of the more pricey VIP tickets (free oysters from Django, Templeton Rye flowing like rivers, cheese selections from Gateway Market). People paid the same prices to see Norah Jones, and they didn’t get ANY FOOD.

5. Have the event on SUNDAY. I know at least 25 people in the industry who would have liked to attend, but could not take Saturday off. I have a feeling this was a big factor in attendance.

And another thing…Racoon River was a great choice for an after party, but not on a Saturday. At 8pm when the winner was close to being called I was out shooting the shit with the kitchen guys from Raccoon and Django and they were still ON A WAIT. Not a good sign. The top floor was promised along with some free pool tables and the first beer for free. That plan was thwarted by a busy Saturday night crowd and some possibly poor communication on the Brewery’s management part. The cochon party was relegated to the downstairs bar and a few tables under the stairs. It is questionable whether anyone really needed more drinks at this point in the evening, but the free pool tables would have been nice for some more friendly competition and fun times. Bad night to attempt a private party at a super busy restaurant. Maybe Chequers in the Hotel Ft. Des Moines would have been a wiser choice.

A few more highlights:

Best Kept Secret Food…Chef Jasa’s Liquid Nitrogen Pork Ice Cream Root Beer Float. I was directing anyone asking about the giant Nitro tank to Hal’s booth for a taste of the “Judges Only” Pork Ice Cream. Anyone to cross its path immediately sprouted an “Oh Holy Shit This Is Good” expression and asked for more. Even our Illustrious Datebook Diner (historically not a Jasa Fan) got excited about it. Actually, she seemed really excited in general. Very nice.

It was great to see Jim Duncan, the Cityview Food Dude. Jim is a Belly (pork, not the band) fan from way back and seemed to be enjoying the offerings. (Jim, if you see this, stop by Friday at the Cafe for more belly).

Formaro’s tacos were “the bomb” according to one eater.

Raccoon River Brewing’s first High Point Beer offering since the percentage cap was lifted on local brewers, the Mai Bock was very good and a healthy 8 percent.

Many people have been questioning Chef Steigerwald’s presentation of Charcuterie…obviously impossible to create in one week and not from the event pig.

Chef Leon was kicking ass all over the place like Sho ‘Nuff, the original Harlem Shogun

Partying a little with Howard Hanna and his River Club Team was a good time. I should have stayed longer!

Had a nice convo with my former co-horts at Gateway Market. Sorry, I won’t be reporting on that.

MadHouse Brewery from Newton had some “dank” beers. Highly recomended.

Things I would have liked to see more of:


Epazote useage

More use of “normal cuts” such as ribs, loins, chops for public consumption. Maybe even a grilling demo, if a proper venue was secured.

Another round of that Pozole from Lincoln Cafe last year.

What happened to the New Belgium Sponsorship? 2009 had a huge bin full of various New Belgium offerings. It was sorely missed by your humble cook this year.

Better Judges. I was in the judges room a few times and seriously question the qualifications of many of said judges to judge food of this caliber.

A “back room” hangout session for all 5 chefs to have a few drinks and get to know each other. But we will get back to the “chefs getting along” subject later.

Well, I hope you enjoyed the wrap-up of The Cochon555 for 2010. Here’s to Chefs Matt Steigerwald, Cody Hogan, Hal Jasa, George Formaro, and Howard Hanna, their awesome teams, and everyone involved in this great, fun event that will, like the wine and swine it palps, grow even better with age.

Thanks for tuning in.

The Cook


3 Comments so far
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iowa credit repair…

credit where credit is due – I could not have said it better….

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I just re-read this post. It made me laugh. What a good night!

Comment by locallygrown

[…] presented by professionals (I hear that Jenny Smith aka Butcher Crick Farms and the one and only Chef Leon will be helping out from time to time) using local products, cutting edge techniques, and served in […]

Pingback by Zingaro, Flour, Allspice, and Every News Nice « Locally Grown

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