A couple weeks back the “Queen of Pork” was crowned at the Grand Cochon National Championship! Chef Karyn Tomlinson of Corner Table in Minneapolis took home the honors. Two other competitions were held in tandem that night. Dustin Nguyen of Martina (Minneapolis) won Punch Kings with his El Tesoro Golpe de Leche featuring vanilla mint pu-erh, processed pulque and clarified with whole milk. The Grand Somm Smackdown featured ten of the nation’s top sommeliers rocking beautiful wines. Taking top honors and winning a trip to Italy was Amy Lutchen of Del Frisco’s (CHI) and Nisha Aher of Knightsbridge Wine Shoppe (CHI) poured the FX Pichler Riesling which was selected the best wine to pair with dishes prepared by the royal court chefs .
I had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Lutchen and enjoying a private wine/food pairing session with her at Del Frisco’s in Chicago. What a fun and educational evening! The mind of a Sommelier is extremely impressive. Check out our interview below and keep reading for a recap of the 10 Year Anniversary 2018 National Cochon competition.
Tavi J. Interview with Wine Director/Sommelier Amy Lutchen
of Del Frisco’s in Chicago
For Cochon you won the Grand Somm Smackdown with the FX Pichler Riesling. How did you come up with the wine pairing?
I know I needed something with acidity to cut through the pork dishes. Riesling is a high acid varietal that cuts through many dishes. Pork belly, something that’s braised, grilled….it cuts through it all. So that’s definitely one thing I thought of. Austria Riesling is normally dry, but they do a lot of pork dishes and lots of sausages in that region. Really heavy meat. Riesling always goes with those types of dishes and when we found this particular Riesling we knew immediately it was the one. As the saying goes “What grows together, goes together.”
You’re extremely passionate about wine. When did wine become a passion for you and have you always worked in the wine industry?
Growing up my grandfather actually grew grapes and made wine. It wasn’t as good as our Italian Neighbors, so we mostly stuck to jam. (LOL) It was a lot of fun though! I loved tending to the garden and helping our neighbors prepare the wine. I graduated at UIC in Chicago with a degree in Marketing Management and Advertising with a minor in international business. So, nothing to do with wine. However, all through college I worked in different restaurants with amazing chefs and got really into wine and the food service industry as a whole. I enjoy the dinner rush and all aspects of the industry.
How did you cross over to the wine industry after college?
In college I was bit by the restaurant bug. When I graduated I had a desk job, but still did the restaurant gig on the weekends. One day I decided that’s it….I surrounded myself with everything food and wine and followed my passion. There was no formal training. There was no schools for wine and very few master sommeliers here. It was a long road of discovering things and studying on my own. I was trying to find out what Chicago had to offer with seminars and tastings. There was no Somm community…even 10 years ago. It’s still a work in progress. It was tough trying to find the right places to go.
Working in different restaurants with different chefs helped me to build my wine expertise. Before joining Del Frisco’s I opened the boarding house with Alpana Singh. I was the first woman Alpana hired for her Somm team. I was just a baby Somm at that time. It was really exciting! I also helped open Picolo Sogno Due.
Can you tell us a little bit about Del Frisco’s Wine Program?
The Double Eagle Steakhouse is the top tier under the restaurant group umbrella. The original restaurant was in Dallas and now there’s 15 around the country with more being opened. Del Frisco’s is known for opening up restaurants in beautiful historic places. Such as the Chicago restaurant is in the old Esquire theater that was built in 1938 and is a landmark.
All Double Eagles have some of the largest wine programs in the country. Each Double Eagle has a multi-million dollar wine program and we’re very excited to showcase that. It’s an honor to be able to work with and run a wine program of this magnitude. The wine list is 42 pages with 1900 selections. There’s definitely something for everyone and I’ve been able to learn so much here.
During our pairings this evening you made sure we tried the Syrah wine and you noted that you’re pushing this one because it’s sometimes treated as a forgotten wine. Can you tell us a little bit about Syrah?
Syrah is a very sexy grape. It’s an excellent wine to serve with steak and many other things. Everybody goes the Cabernet Sauvignon route because that’s what they know. Syrah gets forgotten about, so I’m trying to introduce it to the world again. My motto is “I’m Changing the world one bottle at a time.” That’s how I’m spreading my vibes and energy. Wine is fun and exciting and people should not be afraid of it. There’s a wine for everyone to enjoy. Leave your pretentions at the door. I like to make wine fun for people and pair wines with people’s personalities.
Make sure to stop by and have Amy pair a wine with your meal at Del Frisco’s! Also, head on up to the Esquire Champagne Room after dinner. Such a beautiful spot! Check out the yummy dishes we had below.
Check out the wines Amy paired with our meal above!
Taittinger “La Francaise” Brut NV Champagne Reims, France
Crab cake & Shanghai Calamari:
Max Ferd. Richter “Zeppelin” Riesling Kabinett 2016 Mosel, Germany
Davis Family Vineyards “Rosé de Noir” Dutton Ranch Vineyard Brut 2015
Russian River Valley, California
Thick cut Nueske’s Bacon au poivre & Wagyu Beef Carpaccio:
Domaine des 3 Cellier “Alchimie” 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Glaetzer “Wallace” 2015 Barossa Valley, AustraliaShiraz/Grenache
NY strip steak, Creamed Corn with Shisito Peppers, Brussels Sprouts with Nueske’s Bacon:
Stolpman Vineyards “La Cuadrilla” 2016 Ballard Canyon, CA Syrah/Grenache
Scattered Peaks 2015 Napa Valley, CA Cabernet Sauvignon
Butter Cake & Lemon Cake:
Inniskillin “Ice Wine” 2015 Niagara Peninsula, Canada
Royal Tokaji “5 Puttonyos” 2009 Hungary
CHEF KARYN TOMLINSON OF CORNER TABLE WINS GRAND COCHON
2018 “QUEEN OF PORK” ANNOUNCED AT THE 11-CITY FINALE IN CHICAGO
A Double Win for Minneapolis, Dustin Nguyen of Martin a (Minneapolis) Wins Punch Kings “El Tesoro Tequila Invitational” and Over $6,000 Raised for Charity Piggy Bank
On the evening of September 30th, ten chefs and their teams traveled to Chicago from across U.S. and Canada to compete in the ultimate culinary competition spotlighting independent family farmers raising heritage breed pigs. The date also marked the 10 th anniversary of Cochon555’s first whole-pig competition in Atlanta. Since 2008, the tour has hosted more than 460 events in 28 cities, engaged over 15,000 chef participants and contestants, worked with 560 hog farmers, applauded 93 regional winners, and crowned nine national champions. The kick-off event to the Tenth Anniversary tour announced Chef Karyn Tomlinson of Corner Table in Minneapolis ,
Cochon555’s first-ever “Queen of Pork” since the tour began in 2010. All told, more than 30 dishes were served to a sold-out crowd of 860 pork-loving epicureans and 30 celebrity judges who voted on the best menu. Taking the stage to announce the winner was “2017 King of Pork” Jonathan Granada of Otium and “2008 Cochon555’s First-Ever Prince of Pork” Kevin Rathbun of Rathbun’s Steak, Cochon555 Founder Brady Lowe and culinary emcee Billy Harris. Together they crowned Karyn Tomlinson of Corner Table the Queen of Pork. All the competing teams prepared show-stopping dishes using whole heritage breed pigs but it was Chef Karyn’s plate that captured the crown with a Duroc breed of pig raised by Hidden Stream Farms . The winning menu included three delicious bites; Holiday Spare Rib with allspice, apricot and black poplar conserva, Swedish Meatball with blood pudding, blood sauce and pickled lingonberry and to close, Lard and Apple Pie with larded-crust, Minnesota apples, liver ice cream and pancetta caramel .
Additionally, Grand Cochon hosted two beverage competitions. First, “Punch Kings Tequila Invitational” ( video ) challenged eleven notable barkeeps from across the country to make a large-format communal libation prepared with El Tesoro Tequila in hopes of winning the brass agave trophy. Dustin Nguyen of Martina (Minneapolis) won Punch Kings with his El Tesoro Golpe de Leche featuring vanilla mint pu-erh, processed pulque and clarified with whole milk. The Grand Somm Smackdown featured ten of the nation’s top sommeliers rocking beautiful wines. Taking top honors and winning a trip to Italy was Amy Lutchen of Del Frisco’s (CHI) and Nisha Aher of Knightsbridge Wine Shoppe (CHI) poured the FX Pichler Riesling which was selected the best wine to pair with dishes prepared by the royal court chefs .
Representing an array of cultures, cities and cooking styles, the 2018 competing chef teams included; Ginger Pierce and Preston Madson of Jams by Jonathan Waxman in (NYC), David Uygur of Lucia in (DAL), Brian Redzikowski of Kettner Exchange in (LAX), Cory Morris of Boleo (CHI), Mitch Mayers of Sawyer in (SEA), jW Foster of Fairmont Hotel & Resorts (BANFF), Gabriel Erales of Dai Due Taqueria (ATX), Jose Mendin of Habitat (MIA) and Kyle Foster of Julep (DEN). All chefs won an amazing 4-day wine and gastronomy experience in Rioja, Spain’s most prominent wine region, yet the winner walked away with a stunning custom-engraved kitchen island from John Boos & Co. The event also raised $6,000 for Piggy Bank, a start-up farm in Missouri that serves as a kickstarter for new family farms and a safety net for those in the wake of a disaster (flood, fire and disease).
“It’s always an honor to see how much support, love, passion and energy was in the room to support family farmers,” says Brady Lowe, Founder of Cochon555. “The goal of the first ten years was spotlighting thousands of hard-working chefs and farmers who are responsible for leading the new culinary landscape. As one of this country’s premiere events, our goal for the next ten years is to support the growth of projects that develop interest in young farmers. We’re proud that Chicago served as the host city to the largest Grand Cochon in history. A big thank you to all the guests including friends, family and partners that have taken Cochon555 from a culinary event into a movement. This is eating and drinking for a cause.”
Grand Cochon was a culinary weekend filled with rare tastes, education, all-inclusive drink experiences and inspiration as attendees experienced much more beyond the 33 chef-competitor dishes. The Welcome Lounge ushered guests in to the Buffalo Trace Punch Bar, a Welcome Cocktail from Galliano and the Signature Starter Bar and Cheese Experience spotlighting Cello, La Quercia, Savile Row, Yellow Door Creamery, Cypress Grove and Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine . Guests sipped sparklers from Topo Chico and DRY Sparkling, cold brew coffee from Shenandoah Joe Coffee Roasters and alkaline water from Essentia . Inventive cocktails were served by Glenfiddich inside their Experiential Dome and guests garnished their own drinks at El Tesoro’s Perfect Margarita Bar and the Effen Vodka Collins Bar . Guests indulged in Smoked Old Fashioneds from Courvoisier , neat tastings from Woodford Reserve, craft cocktails courtesy of Bombay Sapphire and The Manhattan Project featured Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, Breckenridge Bourbon, Town Branch Rye and Breckenridge PX Cask Finish topped with Luxardo cherries. The TarTare Bar featured pairing demonstrations aligned to the wines of Antica Napa Valley and stunning Rosés from Chateau D’Esclans paired with organic pâtés from Les Trois Petits Cochons .
Guests experienced the Heritage Rum Cart featuring Don Q Rum, tasted through the stunning portfolios of Wines from Rioja, Cooper & Thief Cellarmasters, delighted in the sparkling wines of Gloria Ferrer paired with bites from Chef Pete Coenen of Cherry Circle Room, the bold sophisticated wines of Sassoregale paired with Chef John Manion, a Sausage & Kraut Bar with Chef Greg Laketek of Salumi Chicago featuring Saverne Artisanal Kraut and an Eggplant Empanada by Chef David Wang of Saint Lou’s Assembly featuring Cello Parmesan and Yellow Door Creamery Harissa Rubbed Fontina . Other food experiences included Oh Snap! Pickling Co. and world-renowned caviar from Tsar Nicoulai Caviar. An array of wines grouped under the “5 Winemakers” banner featured Sandhi , Pax Wine Cellars, Kosta Browne, Twomey Cellars and Silver Oak Winery. As the preferred card of Grand Cochon, Citi cardmembers flashed their Citi Credit Card or Citibank Debit Card to receive a special gift. C ochon555 debuted a new experience featuring Royal Oak’s Natural Charcoal “Dirty Steak” Tomahawk Bar with Chef Nate Singer of Carter Country Meats and guests ended the night with Swine and Sweets, an innovative spin on dessert spotlighting notable pastry chefs Zac Young of Craveable Hospitality Group and Vanarin Kuch of The Albert working with Perfect Puree of Napa Valley. Community is an integral part of the Cochon555 culinary fabric and i t would not be possible without the help of our sponsors and partners. A huge thank you to: Swissôtel Chicago, City Winery, Angel’s Envy, FedEx, Marriott/SPG, Birchware, Industry Juice, Dining Out Chicago, Mint Management & 911 Staffing, WGN & FlavorHD, WSJ+, Yelp, Galdones Photography, Skalawag Productions, Hanging with Harris, Padilla and The Art Institutes Chicago.
About the Cochon555
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. This epic pork feast visits 20 major cities across U.S. and Canada annually and stages over 60 events. The tour is comprised of an array of live expressions including Heritage Fire (live-fire); Heritage BBQ (global grilling cultures); and Grand Cochon (national whole-hog championship). Cochon555 cultivates a long-term impact for heritage species, raised by family farms in top culinary markets in North America. Both educational and inspirational messages are circulated among 16,000 guests; 2,200+ chefs; 150+ family farms; and 16 culinary schools. Since 2008, 50,000+ consumers have experienced heritage pork for the first time, more than $500,000 has been donated to charities, and over $750,000 has been paid directly to our farmers. For more details and videos of events, visit www.cochon555.com or follow @cochon555 on Twitter and Instagram.
About Piggy Bank
Launched in 2015, Piggy Bank is creating a farming sanctuary for heritage breed pigs, many of which are endangered. Piggy Bank will provide genetics and access to shared business plans for raising heritage pigs to emerging family farms. Piggy Bank aims to change the future of food by creating a community in which small farmers can learn about safer, more responsible practices and share genetics, livestock, and the very information needed to thrive as small businesses. Piggy Bank is building a model of socially responsible agricultural transparency. Piggy Bank proudly operates as a project of the Multiplier, a 501(c)3 tax-exempt nonprofit organization which accelerates impact for initiatives focused on protecting and fostering a healthy, sustainable, resilient, and equitable world. For more information or to donate, visit www.piggy-bank.org and watch the video http://j.mp/piggy_bank , or follow @PiggyBankOrg on Twitter and Instagram.
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