Ricardo Jarquin, Travelle Kitchen + Bar, Chicago 

Chefs are the creative tastemakers of the Cochon555 tour. As part of our new Spotlight series for guests past and present, we take you behind the scenes for a Q&A with those who provide the delicious bites for our competition. Meet Chef Ricardo Jarquin from our Chicago event.

Can you give us a quick rundown of the theme behind your winning Cochon555 menu?

The main focus behind the menu was to build bold and delicious flavor profiles with acidic components that would balance out the richness of the pork. Presentation also played  big part: I wanted to serve menu items that not only tasted amazing, but looked stunning. I really kept true to my cooking style, utilizing recipes that I’ve picked up during my travels and the many places I’ve had the pleasure of calling home.

Why is  heritage breed pork special for you – and how would you describe its flavor to the uninitiated?

Two main reasons: one being the product. Heritage breed pork needs more attention and dedication to grow than commercialized pigs. This yields a more superior  product. Different heritage breeds have specific traits that are unique to their genetic makeup. If we don’t support heritage breed farming, we won’t have these special  breeds for future generations. The second reason heritage breed pork is special has to do with the strong ties heritage breeds have to local family farms. I’m a big believer in sourcing from my surroundings whenever possible, because not only are you helping the local community, but 99 percent of the time, you’re acquiring a more superior product.

Choose your best pork memory and describe it for us.

Every Christmas Eve, I would wake up at 5 a.m. to help my mom prepare nacatamales. Think really big tamales filled with rice, potatoes, raisins, tomatoes, and pork. My favorite part of the experience was making the achiote-braised pork, which was finished with cilantro and mint before being utilized as stuffing for the large tamales.

Join Chef Ricardo at Grand Cochon on October 1st in Chicago! Don’t sleep on the best party of the year!