How many ways can you think of to prepare a whole pig?
On Sunday, Nov. 4, more than a dozen prominent central Texas chefs will test their haute hog skills at the second annual Wine & Swine charity event held by the Austin Food & Wine Alliance. The day of food and fun runs from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the pastoral setting of Pioneer Farms in northeast Austin.
Alliance President Cathy Cochran-Lewis is expecting a sell-out crowd of about 500 guests to attend.
“The first event was incredibly social and the kind of party everyone wants to be invited to. We’re excited to bring it back," says Cochran-Lewis. "We’ll be set up in the historic town square of Pioneer Farms with hay rides, live music, a cocktail lounge, amazing wines and local craft beer. The highlight will be the dishes prepared by adventurous chefs who love to roast whole animals.”
James Beard Award nominee Jason Dady originated the event concept to pit talented chefs in a competition for the best roasted pig. Local chefs have eagerly volunteered to participate to see what they can do with a whole pig when given creative license to apply their unique style and prepare the pigs any way they choose, pulling out all the stops as they go.
Because roasting a whole hog takes time, many of the chefs will camp out for the night on the farm tending fires either in or above the ground. Chef Josh Watkins, from The Carillon, is bringing his creativity to this year’s event.
“Last year we dug a hole, lit a gigantic fire in it to roast our pig. We marinated our pig in a Cuban marinade, wrapped it in banana leafs, then in a burlap sack, buried it and cooked it," says Watkins. "This year we’re not digging a hole — I’ll tell you that. We’re using a stainless steel roasting box, known as the Chinese microwave, which roasts the pig with indirect heat with coals burning outside of the box. I’m fairly competitive, so I’m going to be creative and serve pork in six to eight different ways.”
Chef Watkins won the Greenling Fan Favorite at the Alliance’s Live Fire event earlier this year and he knows he’ll have stiff competition at Wine & Swine. “The ultimate goal is to repeat. Instead of just roasting a pig, I’m going to have to make it more elegant, more intriguing. Sometimes in outdoor settings people go to rustic. Rustic has its place in a family style meal, but this is a chef’s station set up. Elegance is in order.”
The Texas Pork Producers Association will award a $1,000 prize to the Greenling Fan Favorite chef at Wine & Swine. Guests are able to vote for their favorite pork sensation using Twitter and text messages at the event.
Swine searing Central Texas chefs competing include father and son duo Jack Gilmore of Jack Allen’s Kitchen and Bryce Gilmore of Barley Swine and Odd Duck working together. They will be competing against Alma Alcocer-Thomas, El Alma; John Bates, Noble Pig; John Bullington, Alamo Drafthouse; Jason Dady, Bin 555 in San Antonio; Ben Hightower, Trace; James Holmes, Olivia; Eric Lucas, Whole Foods Market; Charles Mayes, Café Josie; David Norman, Easy Tiger; Zack Northcutt, Swift’s Attic; Rebecca Rather, The Pink Pig; and Andrew Wiseheart, Contigo.
Proceeds from Wine & Swine will support the Austin Food & Wine Alliance efforts to foster innovation in the Central Texas food and beverage community through its grant program. The Alliance hopes to provide $20,000 in grants this year for chefs, farmers, artisan producers and culinary nonprofits.
Nothing could sound more rustic than a pig roast on a cool November day around open fires on a 90-acre farm, but the event also promises to be an exquisite culinary experience. Tickets are available for online purchase for $75 and will be sold at the door for $95.