Last Friday I attended the second annual Cochon Heritage BBQ contest at Beale Street Landing. I got a last-minute invite to judge, so I arrived at 3:30 p.m.
Three of the six teams were serving inside and the other three were outside. In addition to the BBQ, there were copious amounts of free alcohol, including Four Roses Bourbon, Anchor Steam Beer, and Crispin Cider. There were some local bartenders (Hi, Evan!) mixing cocktails, a really nice cheese bar, and a band. Basically, all the makings for a good time.
I wasted no time and got a bourbon straight away.
Judging didn't officially start, so we had some time to mingle. Jill and Keith Forrester were on hand. Keith was helping Jackson Kramer, leading the team from Interim, plate and serve, and he had also whipped up some watermelon moonshine for the occasion.
I went over to check on the Central BBQ team, and they were having a blast and feeling very confident.
Brady Lowe, the event creator, eventually gathered all 20 of us judges around and reviewed the criteria we would use to judge: flavor, technique, utilization, presentation, and my favorite, "pigginess." Each team had to prepare six dishes—four meats (bone, muscle, pull, stew) and two sides (mustard and mayo).
Finally, it was time to eat! First up was St. Jude's Culinary team led by Miles McMath and Rick Farmer.
I loved their presentation, and it was great to know exactly what was what, and more specifically what was in what.
I actually loved the cold pork and beans the most.
Yes, I had my first ever "Wow, I am enjoying pickled pigs feet and ears" moment. I also really liked the pigs ear pasta. (Maybe I need to try one of those pig ear sliders afterall?)
I'll be honest. I knew right away I was screwed. Everything was so tasty, I took way more than just a taste. I had five teams and 30 more dishes to go!
My favorites here were the dumpling and the Cuban sandwich.
The sides were a little disappointing, but overall the food was stellar. They also had a little bonus for everyone. I wished I had brought my purse so I could take some home to my monkeys.
Next was Jackson Kramer of Interim. His menu looked great and he had several extras.
The moonshine was waaaaaaay to strong for me, but that little pressed pork confit was amazing.
After we finished Jackson's food, we went outside and were instructed to drink some water, which was a very good call. After a short break, we bellied up to Travis Grimes' station. He is chef de cuisine at Husk Restaurant in Charleston. Here's his menu.
And the food. I really liked the fried bologna and the corn fritters.
The pork rind was pretty nice too.
Finally, it was time to taste the Central BBQ team's goodies.
I wasted no time popping the lard bon bon in my mouth. I wish I didn't know there was lard in it, because I could have eaten 10!
I was really, really impressed. This was some amazing food. The guys did good! Most of the judges agreed that the Memphis Soul Stew needed to be added to the CBBQ menu.
I loved the corn dog and the skin pizza. There was also a lardtastic root beer float that you can almost see at the top left next to my lemonade moonshine that I decided to carry around with me for an hour.
I'm telling you, judging this contest was a true feat and a real test of my eating ability. I really don't know how I did it, and I don't know that I could do it again. I definitely don't have enough self-restraint. I have a new-found appreciation for Padma and Gail.
Anyways, you want to know who won, right? The winner was Husk. Congrats to Travis Grimes on a well deserved victory.
Cochon is coming back next year, so mark your calendars for August 16, 2014.