Jimmy "the butcher" Cross vs. Chris Fuller in the Cochon 555 butchery battle

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Cochon 555
When Cochon 555, the nationwide, heritage breed pig-off, trots into town on Sunday, April 3, it won't be just five Colorado chefs battling it out for the "Prince or Princess of Porc" title. In addition to Jennifer Jasinski (Rioja, Euclid Hall and Bisto Vendome); Kelly Liken (Restaurant Kelly Liken); Lachlan MacKinnon-Patterson (Frasca Food & Wine, Pizzeria Locale and Caffe); Alex Seidel (Fruition and Fruition Farms); and Frank Bonanno (Bones, Green Russell, Luca d'Italia, Lou's Food Bar, Mizuna and Osteria Marco), going nose-to-tail in one of the most anticipated events in Denver, two Colorado butchers are also squaring off in a pig-headed, hog-of-war focused on butchery.

Jimmy Cross, the head butcher of Marczyk Fine Foods, is going to cleaver-to-cleaver, knife-to-knife against Chris Fuller, the plant manager of Sunnyside Meats, a small, FDA-approved meat processing plant in Durango. Cross, who claims he can pick a lock with his butcher knives, and Fuller, who opened his plant to "counter the Big Boy domination in the United States," will battle it out in an hour-long bloodshed, in which they'll be judged on speed and efficiency; knife handling and dexterity of roast tying; presentation of oven-ready retail cuts; and creativity.

Both butchers, who were selected to compete in the cutting competition based on videos they submitted to "protein university," will tackle half a pig (forty minutes) and then have twenty minutes to "freestyle on the head." Awesome.

There is, of course, a very serious component to all of this -- namely supporting our local purveyors, suppliers, farmers and butchers and working toward sustainable food supplies. "As the networks between local chefs, farmers and consumers strengthens, one thing has been made clear, and that's that the men and women who butcher are a vital component in our food supply, and must be part of our community, just as the chef and farmer are," says Cochon 555 founder Brady Lowe.

"Butchering animals is not an unskilled job," continues Lowe. "Quite the contrary, it's skilled labor, and very few chefs -- and even fewer consumers -- know how to break down an animal, which isn't surprising, because it's an extremely skilled and precise labor."

During the Denver 555 Cochon porkathon, which goes down at the Ritz-Carlton, there will also be a butcher booth on hand, manned by slaughterhouse workers and owners, if you want to ask questions about the process. "Too often at our local food events, it's only the chef and farmer who are rubbing elbows with customers, drinking fine wine, and getting all the glory, so we want to invite the butchers to take their rightful place in the limelight, and enjoy the wine, company and eats," says Lowe.

Cross and Fuller will be judged by a crop of peers, including Mark "sultan of swine" DeNittis, the owner of Il Mondo Vecchio, and a final winner, chosen from all the butchers who competed during the city-to-city Cohon Tour, will be announced at the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen, June 17-19.

To purchase tickets for Cochon 555, go to www.baconhalloffame.com/products-page/tickets/denver.

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