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Surly’s Jorge Guzman Wins Minneapolis Cochon 555 Battle

Surly chef Jorge Guzman (center) celebrates with his culinary team after claiming the Cochon 555 trophy.

Voters named Jorge Guzman the Minneapolis Prince of Porc during the porcine revelry that is Cochon 555.

Guzman, executive chef at Surly Brewing and the Brewer’s Table, worked with a heritage Large Black pig, the same breed of pig that was used by last year’s winner.

“I’m not going to lie, that’s one reason I picked it. It’s a good pig,” said Guzman, who admitted it was a tense and busy night for chefs. “The competition was stiff, you could feel the tension in the room before the event. It’s fun to have that atmosphere.”

The winning menu consisted of red chile pozole—a Mexican soup—and miniature tamales.


The winning red chile pozole and miniature tamales.

“Everybody loved the pozole, but I really like the tamale,” said Guzman. “For me it would probably have to be the tamale, that was closest to home in terms of the flavors I’m familiar with and in terms of my hometown in Mexico and what I really remember what I was eating as a kid.”

For anyone salivating over the winning menu, fret not; both dishes will be coming to Surly in some form.

“I think we’ll be able to put a few of them in both restaurants, I know we’ll be putting a pozole on Brewer’s Table here soon,” said Guzman. “The tamale I think we’ll try to do downstairs [in the taproom].”

Guzman said using some in-house Surly favorites like jowls and the tamale helped, but endless preparation and practice primed the team to win.

“It was a lot of planning and a lot of logistics. We set the menu first, and then we practiced on parts of the pig,” said Guzman. “From there, we brought in a whole pig and gave ourselves only seven days to go through the process then we staged a fake judging competition—so we set up our booth the way it was going to be set up at the competition and then we went through the process of cooking 26 judge's platters. Then two days later, we picked the pig up and went through it all again, but this time there was no going back.”

Guzman will head to Aspen in June to compete for the national King of Porc crown currently held by another Minneapolis chef, Thomas Boemer of Corner Table and Revival.

Guzman said it was an honor to win, and it would be a great promotion for the city if he won in Aspen.

“I want to bring it home. I wanted to win so badly yesterday my head hurt all week because I was so stressed about it. I’m very ambitious and very driven to a fault,” said Guzman. “It would mean a lot to promote our city. I think people are starting to notice, but I don’t think they know how good we are here. We have some great food, some amazing chefs, so if we brought it home two years in a row, that’d be pretty awesome.”

Guzman competed with some other high profile chefs amidst a throng of foodies and industry folks at the Loews Hotel in Minneapolis on Sunday, February 21.

Zen Box Izakaya chef John Ng featured a version of the restaurant’s signature pork ramen as well as grilled pork belly skewers and a pickled plate with pig ears.

sausage tree

Hoisting a sausage tree, Travail’s Mike Brown delights the crowd.

Carrie Summer and Lisa Carlson of Chef Shack Ranch competed with several dishes, including a lettuce wrap of smoked, braised and pickled pork, a spicy pork sambossa and a pork confit asama wat.

James Winberg, Mike Brown and Bob Gerken of Travail Kitchen & Amusements featured a charcuterie board of pate, various sausages, and a mountain of crackers and what is rumored to be the largest pork rind ever. Brown also delighted guests with a chiccarone sombrero and a sausage tree.

Christopher Nye of Spoon and Stable brought hot chocolate topped with pork-blood marshmallows, a braised-pork taco on buckwheat tortilla and some fermented chorizo tamale.

All proceeds from the event go to Piggy Bank, a non-profit genetic sanctuary that provides heritage breed pigs and business plans to family and emerging farms. 

The event also featured a punch contest, a smorgasbord of wineries and distributors, and more pork-forward snacks like deviled eggs and prosciutto on a breadstick from chef Thomas Broder of Broder’s Pasta Bar and Terzo. 

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