L.A.’s own Walter Manzke, of Petty Cash and Republique, is off to Aspen to represent our fair city at the Grand Cochon cookout this June. This past Sunday, the acclaimed chef won the local competition, held at the Viceroy Santa Monica, with the help of a Cook Pigs large black heritage pig. Last year’s “King of Porc,” Ray Garcia — an L.A. local, born and bred — also won with a Cook Pigs swine.
Among Manzke’s offerings was a nose-to-tail arroz caldo — a Filipino rice pudding dish — that many feasters claimed to be the best bite of the night. And the night was full of bites. And booze. Each chef is paired with a local pig ranch, and the native Southern Californian apparently drew the big straw.
“I use Cook Ranch pigs at both of my restaurants,” says Manzke. “They’re the best pig farm in Southern California.” The feeling is mutual.
“We were thrilled to learn we were teamed with Chef Walter Manzke,” said Krystina Cook, owner of Cook Pigs Ranch. “Not only is Walter an innovative and award-winning chef, but he has long been a proponent of eating sustainably and the farm-to-table ethos that is at the heart of what Cook Pigs Ranch stands for.”
Cook Pigs Ranch is located in the charming town of Julian, in northeast San Diego County. The family-run operation raises heritage pigs humanely and sustainably in the ibérico tradition.
Speaking of tradition, this is the seventh year of the Cochon 555 tour. The one-of-a-kind culinary competition raises awareness of sustainable food and the whole-animal movement, celebrating every part of the pig, from nose to toes. The 10 winners of the regional tour stops compete in Aspen for the title of “King of Porc” or perhaps “Queen of Porc.” And that grand champion is rewarded with a four-day wine experience in Rioja, Spain’s preeminent wine region.
The real winners, of course, are the festival attendees, who get to pig out on some of the best darn food on the planet and cast votes for their favorites. Also weighing in are judges, and among the keenly palated arbiters of taste at Sunday’s event were Jonathan Gold and Sophie Gayot. In addition to Manzke’s fare, meanwhile, diners feasted on the culinary creations of Ricardo Zarate, Kris Morningstar, Tony DiSalvo and Steven Fretz, representing, respectively, Chef Zarate, Terrine, Cast at the Viceroy and The Church Key.
Next stop, San Francisco. Pack your appetite and get on your hog. You’ve got a road trip to take. In fact, get yourself a Cuban cigar because on April 12, the Bay Area will become the Bay of Pigs.
Scott Bridges is an L.A.-based journalist who has worked as a police-beat reporter, a community newspaper editor, and a food and travel writer. He currently works as a freelance writer, contributing to The Huffington Post and Bizjournals.com, among other sites. He is a native Californian who lives on the Westside.