The inaugural Cochon Heritage BBQ, coming this Labor Day weekend, promises three days of barbecue-loving, bacon-eating, and bourbon-sipping.
"I want to go through as many whole pigs throughout the weekend as possible," says Brady Lowe of Cochon 555, the event's host.
You can purchase a weekend pass for $500, but many of the events will also have individual tickets available for purchase. The party kicks off Friday, August 31st, at 7 p.m. with a Mixologists' Rooftop Soiree ($50) at the Peabody and includes craft cocktails (especially bourbon-based drinks in honor of National Bourbon Month), wine, and beer, live music, a bologna tasting and best bologna contest, and a whole heritage hog roast. Afterwards, Food Republic will host an After Hours Brunch and Midnight Bourbon Toast ($40) at Court Square, complete with Belgian waffles, fried chicken, oysters, a maple syrup and hot sauce bar, and a bourbon toast to "Auld Lang Syne."
Rouse yourself early enough on Saturday morning and head to Sweet Grass for the Heirloom Bloody Mary Tailgate, BBQ Oysters, and Bacon ($20) with Allan Benton and cheer on the Cochon 5.55K runners as they race through the Cooper-Young neighborhood.
Stick around until 11 a.m. for the Man vs. BBQ event ($45), in which 12 chef competitors travel across the city and attempt to eat their way through some of the area's finest joints: Payne's, Central BBQ, BBQ Shop, Top's, Cozy Corner, Rendezvous, and Memphis BBQ Company.
Then return to Sweet Grass for the Heritage BBQ Pop-Up Restaurant ($55.50), run by Boston-based chefs Jamie Bissonnette of Coppa and Toro and Will Gilson of Puritan & Co. There, you'll get a sneak peek at the kind of snout-to-tail menu the teams will be preparing for the main event, the Heritage BBQ Competition. Whet your appetite with Mexican soda pulled pork torta, cured sliced loin with lentils and salsa verde, pork skin red curry, Vietnamese fried bones, ramen seasoned macaroni salad with crispy noodles and mint, and Ethiopian braised mustard greens with berbere.
Get a jump on Sunday's grand finale with various Heritage BBQ Seminars ($50), on cheese, meats, wine pairings, and more at the Peabody, starting at 10 a.m. Then enjoy free admission to an outdoor kitchen with rotisseries and local vendors and farmers market on Main Street, or head to the National Bourbon Month Celebration at Felicia Suzanne's and feast on bacon, barbecued oysters, BLTs, and bourbon.
Whatever you do, be sure to make it back to the Columns at Commerce Square by 1 p.m. for the official Heritage BBQ Competition ($125-$200). More than 15 teams of chefs from all over the Mid-South and the United States will go head-to-head and try to create a winning snout-to-tail plate composed of six items: a pulled meat, a muscle, a stew, a bone, a mayo-based side, and a mustard-based side. Guests will be able to sample from the teams' whole heritage hog menus.
"We're going to have all the teams cooking pigs — you're going to see over 15 pigs at the Columns," says Lowe. "There will be [an outdoor] kitchen on the street level. There's going to be wine and beer and farmers cooking stuff at the main market in front of the Columns."
Lowe expects to make Cochon Heritage BBQ an annual event. But unlike the nomadic Cochon 555 events, Heritage BBQ will bring the sweet pork-loving on home to Memphis every year.
"My birthday is Labor Day weekend," says Lowe. "I told my parents if they ever want to see me on my birthday, they have to come to Memphis. I'm committed to this."
Cochon Heritage BBQ, www.cochon555.com