Local chef-lebrities impress at pig cookoff

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Hundreds of foodies and drink aficionados ignored the dreary weather on Sunday to try the most creative pork dishes and unique cocktails in Houston.

Cochon 555, a friendly competition aimed at promoting the use of sustainably-raised, heritage pigs, landed in Houston for a Sunday afternoon foodie fest at Hughes Manor.

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The event organizer gave each of the participating five chefs a whole heritage pig. In return, the chefs created a six-course that showcased porky goodness.

A group of local judges showed up well before the general public to plow through the 30 plus dishes. They washed it down with a variety of wines and unique cocktails.

Eyewitness News was not among the judges, which probably saved us lots of calories! Fortunately, we did have a chance to sample a variety of pig related dishes.

The competition was a no brainer for Felix Florez, who owns Black Hill Ranch, a local ranch that supplies pork to some of the best restaurants in Texas. Florez, who also owns Ritual restaurant, says he developed his plate of pork goodies from Houston's diverse culture. There was a pork "pho," based on our city's Vietnamese immigrants. There was a sausage, inspired by German immigrants. The most fun, though, was a kolache, the quintessential Czech pastry, filled with sautéed onions and a piped full of pork pate. Decadent!

Kata Robata's Chef Manabu Horiuchi, or "Chef Hori" to friends, would be the big winner for the night. The affable chef, who is usually seen behind the sushi counter at the Upper Kirby restaurant, knows his way around a heritage pig. Eyewitness News could only see the pork ramen served to the judges from afar. We would have been sad but we were already full! Fortunately, we got to try the amazing pork dumplings and a pork based curry that were beyond delicious.

It would seem that the judges were also impressed with Chef Hori's use of all things pig. He was announced the winner of the Cochon 555 Houston competition. As such, he will advance to the Grand Cochon, a nationwide competition. This year, that competition will take place in Chicago.

As Houston has gained fame as a foodie destination, we feel confident that Chef Hori will make Houston proud.

We should note that any food event wouldn't be complete without dessert. Fortunately, Pastry Chef Rebecca Masson of Fluff Bake Bar was present to satisfy everyone's sweet tooth. Of her several offerings, the most fun was a bon bon of sweetness hand bathed in marshmallow and torched to order by the chef herself.

A very sweet ending indeed.
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