Over the weekend, we attended Cochon555 Banff, it's Banff's Ultimate Foodie Experience, full of drool-worthy pig-centric culinary delights.
Cochon555 Banff is a nose-to-tail celebration highlighting the importance of Heritage Breed Pigs and supporting small family run farms. Chefs will compete to win the title of “Princess/Prince of Pork”. Each with the challenge of having one week to prepare a 200 pound pig and present a “Judge’s Plate” of up to six dishes which is scored on utilization, technique, and overall flavour.
Keep reading for our highlights of this year's Cochon555 Banff Culinary weekend (April 5 - 7, 2019)
A little background about Cochon555:
Cochon555 began in 2008, but was primarily an American event. The epic culinary tour starts in Dallas in early-February and culminates with the finale, Grand Cochon late fall in Chicago.
The Cochon555 Tour executes a yearly host of authentic, hyper-local food events focused on raising awareness for heritage breed pigs through an innovative nose-to-tail pig cooking competition.
Cochon555 aims to create moments of inspiration, and to engender discussion and action - to buy, to cook, shop and donate in the name of a safe, honest, and delicious food. Bottom line, we are educating the nation one bite at a time and creating a safer food future to be shared with our children.
So what is Heritage Pork?
Unlike their modern relatives, Heritage Breed Pigs come from bloodlines dating back hundreds of years when livestock was raised on multi-use, open pasture farms. Today, most Heritage Breed Pigs are raised on small, family farms without the use of harmful antibiotics or growth steroids.
Now lets meet this year's Producers and Chefs:
Cochon555 2019 - 5 Pigs, 5 Chefs, 5 Winemakers
Chef JF Fortin, from the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, Fairview Restaurant teamed up with Broek Pork Acres, a family farm in Southern Alberta, to prepare and present a Berkshire heritage pig. The Berkshire is one of the most popular heritage breeds and is well-known for producing tender, juicy meat with high marbling.
Chef Rory Germain, of Saltlik, collaborated with Nature's Green Acres, a small husband and wife run farm located in Viking, Alberta, to prepare and present a Tamworth heritage pig. This rare breed is known for its ample belly (aka the best bacon hog) and vibrant flavor.
Chef Christian Gosselin, of Fairmont Banff Springs, 1888 Chophouse, was paired with the family-run Eh Farms in Strathmore, Alberta, to prepare and present a Mangalitsa heritage pig. The Mangalitsa meat is considered among the tastiest pork in the world.
Chef Chris Thomson, of Crave Mountain Grill at the Banff Park Lodge, teamed up with Sunterra Farms to prepare and present a Berkshire heritage pig, prized for its juiciness, flavor, and tenderness.
Chef Scott Hergott of Sky Bistro Banff collaborated with Bear and the Flower Farm to prepare and present a Duroc/Landrace/Berkshire heritage pig. This unique combination creates a richly flavoured and balanced pig.
Highlights of the Dishes at this year's Cochon555 Banff:
We were greeted by an enormous dark chocolate Pig upon entering the hall. The Cochon555 Chocolate Pig had 450 lbs of chocolate and took 45 hours of labor to complete. It was created by the Fairmont Banff Springs Pastry Department representing ties to Alberta Pig farms, the Bow valley & Canadian Rockies and the Banff Farmers Market.
We started off with some charcuterie, tartare, and welcome drink from Eau Claire Distillery before entering the main hall.
The chefs all brought their A-game creating dishes using all parts of the pig including some unique body parts.
Chef Scott Hergott (this year's Prince of Pork) used smoked Hock and Ham in his stew and his cherry wood smoked baby back ribs and southern baked beans were something not to be missed!
His creative "Bacon Cotton Candy" packed some yummy flavor and took us back to our childhood days.
Chef Christian Gosselin, of Fairmont Banff Springs, 1888 Chophouse, nostalgically brought the 50's diner to us with his whimsical presentation of each of his creations.
He utilized so many part of the Pig we couldn't keep track. From the Pork fat Milk shake and ice cream cone (using pork skin too) and Pork belly Candy Apple to the Pork butt, belly, and bones Pig in the Grass puff, all items were executed and presented very well.
We never thought we'd be trying Pigs blood but were pleasantly surprised when we tasted Chef JF Fortin's pig's blood mousse deviled egg from the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, Fairview Restaurant.
Also loved the creative dishes from Chef Rory Germain, of Saltlik and Chef Chris Thomson, of Crave Mountain Grill - with pulled pork loin sandwiches and Black trumpet crust loin medallions with liverwurst, parsnip puree, and apricot demi-glace. (pictured below)
Congrats to all the Chef's on their pork-centric creations!
Punch Kings and Sommelier Smackdown:
This year had something new! Two beverage competitions to complement the whole-animal pig festival.
Punch Kings, a whole bottle, large-format spirit, punch bowl competition featuring five top barkeeps in a handcrafted punch challenge. We loved the variety of punches and Sommelier Smackdown, a face-off of five top Sommeliers pairing the best wine with heritage pig.
Cochon555 Inspired Brunch
Brand new for 2019 - and a unique, signature addition to Cochon555 Banff - will be ticketed, collaborative long table dinners held on Friday, April 5. Presented by incredible local chefs, paired with guest chefs such as Anita Lo (Top Chef Master, Chopped: All Stars, Iron Chef) and Darren MacLean (The Final Table), these intimate dining events are guaranteed to be a tantalizing tasting experience for foodies.
The morning after Cochon555 Banff, (April 7) guests were invited to attend one of several special brunch events to round out their perfect foodie weekend. We attended the Cochon555 Brunch at Crave Mountain Grill at the Banff Park Lodge.
The highlights of the brunch were definitely the Harissa Roast Pork Loin from Eh Farms and Cochon555 inspired dessert table that included sweet treats such as Maple Bacon Ice Cream, Dark Chocolate Pork Brownies and a towering 8 tiered chocolate fondue fountain.
We enjoyed a smorgasbord with fresh charcuterie and select cheeses, great for our Keto-loving table mates. There was so much variety and we tried it all from the Dim sum, Pork liver pate, Braised pork osso bucco, Ham eggs Benedicts to the delicious Roast pork and Shiso salad with Ponzu dressing.
Thank you to Chef Chris Thomson, of Crave Mountain Grill at the Banff Park Lodge for a delightful brunch experience.
Throwback to the Chef line up last year:
Banff was the first destination in Canada to host Cochon555 in 2018 and we were amazed at the creative dishes the Chefs whipped up especially the inspired desserts!
JW Foster from the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel (Winner of Cochon555 Banff 2018)
Connie DeSousa and John Jackson from Charcut and Charbar
Matthias Fong of River Cafe in Calgary
Shelley Robinson of Banff Hospitality Collective
Randy Luft of the Rimrock Resort Hotel
Photographs - 2018 Galdones Photography (galdones.com) for COCHON555
The farmers are Malorie Aubé of Country Accent Heritage Breeds, Allan and Joanne Vanden Broek of Broek Pork Acres, Danny and Shannon Ruzicka of Nature’s Green Acres, Mark Lahoda and Antonio Matriz of Alberta Pork Company/Sunhaven Farms and Jessica and Chris Fasoli of Bear and the Flower Farm.
Chefs were challenged to use all parts of the Heritage Breed Pigs including but not limited to the ears, tongue, heart, brain, and blood. The delicious looking donuts below were Boston Cream Doughnuts with lard pastry cream and Blood Chocolate Ganache from the Chef's DeSousa and Jackson and the tasty Scotch egg from Chef JW Foster contained pig brain.
Here's some of our photos from last year's event:
Last year's Cochon555 winner Chef JW Foster, Executive Chef at Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, summed it up perfectly - "I can't think of a better place for Cochon 555 to begin its chef-driven Canadian journey than here in Banff, Alberta. It is vital to showcase the efforts of small farmers who are driven to keep heritage pork alive and accessible to chefs who want to raise awareness of local food. I truly believe in an authentically local culinary focus to support local farmers, and this event puts that focus centre stage - an event that any chef worth their salt wants to be involved with."
Through education, the goal is to raise the bar on building a sustainable and profitable relationship for brands and chefs participating in culinary
What else is there to do after Cochon?
As strong supporters of a "staycation", Banff has so much to offer from its outdoor adventures, food scene, shopping, and innovative events.
When you're all pigged out at Cochon555 Banff, there are plenty outdoor activities to enjoy. You can explore the mountains on one of many hikes, ride up to the summit on the Banff Gondola and take in the picturesque views, or sit and simmer in the Banff Hot Springs.
We were so full (and a little tipsy) after our Cochon55 experience so, we went back to our hotel to relax in the rooftop hot tub.
Where to Stay:
Views from the Surprise corner view point (see our Pro Tips below) of the Fairmont Banff Springs
There's a ton of different accommodation options for Banff from camping, RV, airBNB, hostels and hotels.
Cochon555 Banff is hosted at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel and if you are coming out here for a holiday it's the perfect venue to stay and explore the iconic Castle and relax at Fairmont Willow Stream Spa.
If you're like us though, and just wanted to come up for the weekend to enjoy the Cochon555 Festival, grab brunch and head back to Calgary, then we'd look for some accommodations conveniently on Banff Avenue.
We stayed at the Mount Royal Hotel on Banff Avenue. It's kitty-corner to all the great lunch and brunch spots such as Tooloulou's, Beavertails, Park Distillery, and The Grizzly House. The Mount Royal Hotel its been newly renovated and we loved our bright and airy room. We just loved the views and being able to people watch from the rooftop lounge and hottubs .
Views from the Rooftop Hot tubs @MountRoyal Hotel
Check out our room photos and some photos of the guest Lounge and Rooftop hottubs below.
We found the location of our hotel very convenient and central to all the places we wanted to go. Everything was within walking distance and if we wanted to go any further we could just hop on the bus with the new Banff Public Transit.
But if you want more flexibility, having a car will give you the flexibility to see more and to be on your own schedule during your stay.
You will need to purchase a daily park pass for $19.60 CAD. Make sure to buy them ahead of time to avoid lineups at the park gates. Click here to purchase
For the Top IG-worthy spot to snap a picture perfect photo of the Banff Springs head to Surprise Corner View Point - you can take a photo like we have above of a scenic view overlooking the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel & Sulphur Mountain.
Bring your selfie light to the next Cochon555 event, its a little darker in the room so want to be ready to take a photo with your own light.
Hope you enjoyed reading about our weekend trip to Banff for Cochon555!
Thank you to the team at Banff & Lake Louise Tourism, Cochon555 and Pursuit Banff for a wonderful Mountain Getaway!
Hungry Couple YYC