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Event recap and photos: Cochon555 Heritage BBQ Tour

Matthew Odam
modam@statesman.com

Justin Yu of Houston’s exceptional Oxheart restaurant came to the Cochon555 Heritage BBQ event at the W Hotel Sunday with the intention of shaking up his image. Yu, whose restaurant was just named best in the city (again) by Houston Chronicle restaurant critic Alison Cook, said he wants be known as someone who can do meat as well as he does vegetables.

He came to the right place. The pork-centric event featured five restaurants competing in a challenge that required them to make five dishes with a 200-pound heritage breed pig. At the head of the ballroom at the W, rest a massive pig that butchers from Salt & Time broke down for a charity auction that raised about $800 for the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.

The event was one of five stops on the Heritage BBQ tour, part of Cochon555’s mission to spread the gospel of local sourcing and heritage breed pigs.

“Austin is this young, vibrant, super-hip, food-eating mecca right now for entertainment and enjoyment. And this conversation is all about local, so it is the perfect fit,” Cochon555 founder Brady Lowe said. “From a level of sourcing I think Austin is in elite conversation when talking about artisanal production.”

East Side King took home the crown at the event that also served to highlight global barbecue from the culinary traditions of China, Germany, Mexico, South Africa, Indonesia, Spain Hawaii, Vietnam, and South America. ESK’s Dustin Harvey’s win came on the strength of a crunchy but tender pork confit topped with soft poached quail egg and served with pickled chilies.

Austin restaurants Barlata, Foreign and Domestic, and Swift’s Attic also competed in the piggy proceedings that were enlivened with plenty of bourbon. For Swift’s Attic the event offered a chance to preview their forthcoming Chinese restaurant Wu Chow in downtown Austin.

If their steamed buns with sweet pork shoulder and excellent pork soup dumplings with their gelatinous blast were any indication, the restaurant will be a welcome addition to the scene.

As for Yu’s team, the cardamom-infused pain au lait with tender pork shoulder was a hit, but there was no denying the beauty of his plate of roasted and pickled okra served with smoked cheddar and black garlic. He served it as a sixth bonus dish, proving some habits are hard to break.

To the photos …