Go Pig or Go Home: How Things Went Down at the 1st Annual Suckling Pig Throwdown

Categories: Local Spotlight

DSC_0016.jpg
Photos by Mai Pham
Azuma's Chef Masa Wakatsuki hand-crisps the suckling pig for team Kata using Japanese charcoal
Check out our slideshow of the Suckling Pig Throwdown.

Leave it to Kata Robata Executive Chef Manabu "Hori" Horiuchi to assemble a cast of chefs worthy of an Iron Chef all-stars competition. Because that's what happened on Sunday night at the 1st Annual Suckling Pig Throwdown, when 13 of Houston's finest chefs came out strutting their stuff for all they were worth.

The main ingredient? Suckling pig. The prize? Bragging rights as the Suckling Pig Throw Down King and a gold pig trophy.

Approximately 300 food-lovers, Kata Robata regulars and industry heavyweights attended the friendly competition, which had the happy feel of a super-fun, food-filled party. There were people everywhere, eating, drinking, smiling, laughing, snapping photos and ogling the food.

DSC_0066.jpg
Hawaiian-themed chopped pork sliders and a really black brined suckling pig
A large tent had been erected directly in front of Kata Robata for the chefs to set up their stations. To the far right, Chef Ryan "Heinous" Hildebrand's team from Triniti could be seen rapidly chopping up black poke-brined suckling pig, for their sliders of soft and sweet Hawaiian bread filled with moist, chopped pork, pink peppercorn, pineapple and sesame slaw.

Chef Randy "The Ravenous" Rucker of Restaurant Conat was doing pâté-like tranches of thick-cut head cheese, roast suckling pig, and his mother Bootsie's awesome sweet and spicy pickles.

At the next booth, Chef Raymond "The Venomous" Vandergaag of The Tasting Room City Centre had a crate full of crispy spiced chicharron, while squares of crisp-skinned suckling pig sizzled on an iron-cast hot-plate. He also had a pork pâté and pork meatball that he was serving with pickles.

DSC_0085.jpg
Rillettes by Steve Marques of The Tasting Room Uptown Park
Chef Steve "The Slaughter" Marques of The Tasting Room Uptown Park offered suckling pig five ways: pork rillette, fresh garlic sausage, head cheese, bacon-toffee oatmeal cookie, and most notably, a bacon-bourbon-ginger-beer-hard-cider-cocktail which he called a "pig's fart."

Chef Terrence "The Terror" Gallivan and his partner Seth "The Savage" Siegel-Gardner chose a deli theme for their offering, hand-shaving glorious porchetta to make a mortadella-stuffed porchetta sandwich on an olive-salad bread with chow chow relish and a grilled ramp cheddar cheese. Each sandwich was wrapped in butcher paper and sealed with a sticker debuting the logo for their upcoming restaurant, The Pass and Provisions.

DSC_0059.jpg
Chef Terrence "The Terror" Gallivan slicing porchetta with his shiny new red meat slicer
Chef "Iron" Mike Potowski of Benjy's on Washington came up with Japanese-inspired stuffed inari (tofu skin), mixing the pork with an Asian-flavored pickled slaw, which was topped with Sriracha for a nice spicy kick.

At the Kata Robata booth, Chef Gabe "Young Guns" Medina offered a dashi-brined suckling pig that was painstakingly hand-charred with Japanese coals to give the skin a really defined crisp. Served with cherry blossom sticky rice, and a red miso sauce, the flavors and textures were similar to that of Peking duck, only supercharged in a tastier Japanese way, and with crispier skin.

DSC_0207.jpg
Chef Gabe "Young Guns" Medina - action shot: "How I eat my suckling pig"
Chef Michael "Make It Rain" Pellegrino of Max's Wine Dive had arguably the most creative and eye-catching plate of the night. A huge, three-foot pig made out of pretzel bread looked like it was just for show until he cut it up and revealed an entire suckling pig baked inside of it! The pork was sliced, sauteed, and served on the pretzel bread with a tangy, deep yellow "kitchen sink" mustard. On the side, little baby piglets could be seen as well, which were also stuffed with pork.

DSC_0093.jpg
The huge pig had a whole suckling pig inside of it! By Chef Michael "Make It Rain" Pellegrino
Not to be outdone, Chef Ryan "The Ripper" Pera of Revival Market offered a Korean-inspired dish, a smoked pork rice bowl with local vegetables and quail egg, which reminded me of bibimbap and kim-chi fried rice at the same time.

And last but not least, Chef Ronnie "The Ravenous" Killen of Killen's Steakhouse offered four different preparations of suckling pork, including barbecued ribs, crisp pork belly, pulled pork, and pork tamale. A charming Chef Johnny Wesley was also giving away free hugs when people voted, another draw, for sure.

DSC_0040.jpg
The barbecue suckling pork, 3 ways at Killen's table
All this was happening outside in the tent, while inside, Kata Robata was bestowing upon patrons hot and cold dishes like butter-sauteed scallop topped with shiitake mushroom, panko crusted jumbo tempura shrimp, cold soba noodles, several rolls, fresh sushi and more. On the patio, St. Arnold's beer was being served on tap. Virtuoso Selections was on hand with free sake tastings, and at the bar, Christa Havican and David Long Wong were doing refreshing cocktails of watermelon-honeydew-mint agua fresca with Treaty Oak Rum and mint for a mere $5.

Judges Katharine Shilcutt of the Houston Press, Greg Morago of the Houston Chronicle, Chef Chris Shepherd of Underbelly, Teresa Byrne-Dodge of My Table Magazine and Patricia Sharp determined the Top 3 of the evening, crowning Ryan "The Ripper" Pera as the Suckling Pig Throw Down King, which also earned him a grand prize ticket to Japan with Sushi Club of Houston Founder, Carl Rosa.

DSC_0116.jpg
1st Place Winner: Chef Ryan "The Ripper" Pera with Sushi Club of Houston Founder, Carl Rosa
Michael "Make it Rain" Pellegrino of Max's Wine Dive came in second, and Mark Gabriel "Young Guns" Medina came in third.

Chef Ronnie "The Ravenous" Killen and Team Killen's Steakhouse won the People's Choice for the night, and with it, the highly coveted golden pig trophy, which Killen proudly showed off for the rest of the night.

Congratulations to Kata Robata, Recipe for Success, the winners, and all the chefs who participated, because every single offering was delicious in its own right. Is it too early to say this will go down in history as one of the best Houston food events, ever? Can't wait to see what happens next year.



Follow Eating Our Words on Facebook and on Twitter @EatingOurWords

Location Info

Kata Robata Sushi & Grill

3600 Kirby, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

My Voice Nation Help
7 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Those baby piglets from Max's Wine Dive were unreal - so much effort, yet wonderfully simple flavors. So tasty. I wanted a whole jar of that mustard to take home.

Wuwu
Wuwu

Gabe is a rock star, he is unreal talent and will be a real force in Houston dining scene for years to come...

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

His dish with Hori-san was really beautiful -- especially the poached egg dipping sauce. So many extraordinary dishes on Sunday night; so little stomach space.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Ah the perks of being a judge. We didn't get the poached egg dipping sauce, but it looked darn good!!! Still, Gabe's dish rocked even without it.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

The kitchen sink mustard was truly tasty! A lot of smart people went home with goodies that night. Somebody went home with Bootsie's famous pickle jar, I saw Gabe Medina slicing up a whole pig and people standing in line with to-go boxes, too.

Jonathan Horowitz
Jonathan Horowitz

Glad you both enjoyed the "Kitchen Sink Mustard" so much - Chef Michael was just talking about the great reaction and how he can incorporate that yummy stuff into the seasonal menus at MAX's... (assuming he can re-create it...) we'll see what his brain comes up with...!  All the MAX's/Tasting Room teams had a wonderful time on Sunday - it was a fun event and it's always great to see that much Houston culinary talent in one place at the same time.  Looking forward to the next one!

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...