Hog heaven: Heritage BBQ chefs compete for best pork plate

Five pigs, five chefs, five wineries and one brewer.
On Sunday, Sept. 13, five top chefs will square off at Smokestack Barbecue in Dogpatch in a friendly competition that challenges them to prepare six dishes from one whole, family farm-raised heritage pig.
Cochon555 founder Brady Lowe started Heritage BBQ in 2012 to educate chefs and restaurants about responsibly raised animals and to help stimulate a market for heritage breed meat and sustainable methods. This is the first year in San Francisco for Cochon’s Heritage BBQ competition and the timing is perfect, said Magnolia Brewing and Alembic owner Dave McLean, who opened Smokestack Barbecue in the spring of 2014. McLean said Lowe’s values at Cochon555 align with what he is doing at his restaurants. “At Smokestack we buy whole animals from our local rancher and break down the whole pig and find ways to use everything,” McLean said.
 “Barbecue seems to be having a moment in San Francisco. There are great things that you can do with barbecue that are consistent with food values in terms of local sourcing and sustainability,” he said.
McLean, who has poured his beer at  other Cochon555 events, said even though Heritage BBQ is a friendly competition, everyone gets amped up for it. “All the chefs work hard to beat the other four chefs.”
The chefs have seven days to prepare a Judge’s Plate consisting of six dishes, which will be scored on utilization, global influences, cooking techniques and overall flavor. The dishes will be judged by a panel and by the diners.
Chefs accepting the challenge are:
• Dennis Lee of Smokestack/Namu Gaji,
• Geoff Davis from The Dock,
• Michael Rafidi of RN74,
• Nicolai Lipscomb of The Battery and
• John Madriaga from Spruce.
In addition, 10 chefs will prepare a dish from their favorite BBQ culture. Grilling styles include Hibachi, Korean BBQ, Asador, Braai from Africa, Char Siu, Caja China, Churrasco and Barbacoa, as well as regional American BBQ styles.
Even though Cochon555’s events are wine oriented, McLean said diners gravitate to Magnolia’s beer booth because beer tastes so good with pork.

Why do beer and pork pair so well?
“It works in a couple of ways,” McLean said. “There are some flavors in pork that show themselves whether its cured, charcuterie, slow roasted in the oven or grilled. Caramel notes and the caramelization of some of the meat flavors dovetail perfectly with some of the malt notes in a lot of beer. On top of that harmonic flavor match, pork can be fatty and rich, so you simultaneously have the scrubbing bubbles effect of the carbonation that cuts through the fat, resets the palate and makes it enjoyable to keep eating that dish.”
Barbecue amplifies those flavors, said McLean. Slow cooking over low temperatures for long periods of time brings out deep caramelization in an even more intense way. “On top of that, some of the smoke complexity that gets picked up by the meat in the barbecue also seems to dovetail with both the malt and hoppiness in beer. It all comes together in a way that just works.”   
McLean’s beer palate gravitates toward malt-forward English ales: bitters, milds and pale ales, and darker brown ales and porters. “I particularly love what some of the midrange color malts do in the beer and how they pair with a variety pork dishes,” he said. “There’s a residual sweetness that comes through in the beer from some of the unfermentable sugar and the crystal and caramel malts, as well as the actual caramel flavor that comes through from those malts. The caramelization comes together in the beer and the food really shines. That’s like THE pairing in my mind with a smoked pork chop or pork ribs.”
The best complementary pairings can create a sort of gastronomic epiphany. “A lot of things go pretty well with each other, and that’s delicious and you can have a really enjoyable experience,” said McLean. “But sometimes you land on a pairing where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The two things make each other taste better. Those are the ones you really fall in love with.”

Sunday, Sept. 13
4 p.m., VIP; 5 p.m., regular admission
What: Cochon555 Heritage BBQ competition
Where: Smokestack Barbecue at Magnolia Brewing Co.
2505 3rd Street
San Francisco
For tickets, go here.


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