Chef Donald Link has been chosen as a finalist in the James Beard Foundation Awards Outstanding Chef U.S. category! Chef Link joins a superior group of accomplished chefs from around the country: David Chang, Gary Danko, Daniel Humm, Paul Kahan and Nancy Silverton. In true New Orleans fashion, the celebrating goes on – New Orleans is represented in several other categories, as well. Emeril’s was honored with an Outstanding Wine Program nomination. Times picayune writer Brett Anderson was nominated for his writing in the Environment, Food Politics, and Policy category. Brett Martin, a new New Orleans resident, received a nod for his Humor article in GQ. And four fellow New Orleans chefs were nominated for Best Chef: South—Justin Devillier, John Harris, Tory McPhail and Alon Shaya, in addition to Sue Zemanick, up for Rising Star Chef of the Year.
The James Beard Foundation Awards recognize outstanding achievement within the food and wine industry and are considered to be the “Oscars of the food world.” The winners will be announced live from New York on May 7, 2012.
Seeing the first king cakes arrive in my neighborhood grocery store last weekend reminded me of a quip a friend made last year about plain king cakes, the unfilled kind. Only in New Orleans, he said, could you call something coated with frosting, dusted with sugar and baked with a plastic baby inside “plain” with a straight face. Each year, bakeries, cafes, restaurants and doughnut shops up the ante on what goes in or on a king cake…. It’s hard not to marvel at the variations. This year, bananas show up in at least three filled varieties that I’ve come across: the Elvis at Cochon Butcher… As Carnival 2013 kicks off, I checked in with a few places to see what else is coming out of the oven. Cochon Butcher With layers of chocolate peanut butter; apple and Creole cream cheese; and lemon doberge, pastry chef Rhonda Ruckman’s king cakes almost call out for a new hybrid dessert category. Her most over-the-top flavor is an homage to another sort of royalty: The “Elvis” is filled with bananas, peanut butter, house-cured bacon and topped with toasted marshmallow. The Elvis is sold daily by the slice or as a whole cake by special order in advance. And, like last year, Ruckman’s king cakes come with a tiny pink piglet instead of a baby, a cute touch from a restaurant named for the French word for pig.
The king behind Cochon Butcher’s king cake isn’t the one we usually associate with the Mardi Gras pastry. This one’s a little more rock ‘n’ roll. For Mardi Gras, the restaurant at 930 Tchoupitoulas Street, New Orleans, will serve an Elvis king cake, filled with peanut butter and bananas and topped with toasted marshmallows and bacon. “They’re a little bit crazy,” pastry chef Rhonda Ruckman said of the confection, which started out last year as gifts to friends. “It’s fun and different.” This isn’t Cochon’s first flirtation with Elvis-inspired food. In the past, Butcher featured Elvis sandwiches and the main Cochon restaurant also featured Elvis ice cream. Michael Carmody, Ruckman’s assistant, came up with the idea for a crawfish boil and then it was tested out on friends and family. The Elvis cake joins Cochon Butcher’s lineup of cinnamon, lemon, apple and creole cream cheese, and chocolate peanut butter king cakes. This year, all but the Elvis cake will be offered in individual sizes. The Elvis cake will be available by the slice in the restaurant or can be ordered whole. Unlike some other outlets, Cochon Butcher won’t offer its Elvis cakes until January 6 – Twelfth Night, the traditional start of the Mardi Gras season. “We’re traditionalists in that sense,” Ruckman says.
For the past decade, we’ve lived in an era of pumped-up burger cooks, who have done impossibly good—and not so good—things with ground beef and a bun. Now, finally, there’s news for everyone who has had more than enough burgers. It’s time to make way for the sandwich chefs and their incredible creations. Chef Donald Link’s acclaimed Cochon muffuletta, with house meats and olive salad, is always on the menu.
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Cochon Butcher: In a town where po’boys and muffulettas call into question the sanity of any soul who opts for a sliced-bread sandwich, Cochon Butcher’s Stephen Stryjewski and Donald Link fight back hard with this Southern spin on grilled cheese. Slices of Swiss and house-cured, uncrisped bacon made from shoulder meat hold their own, but it’s a careful layering of vinegar-laced collard greens cooked al dente that nudges the bacon melt onto the bucket list.
Cochon Butcher: This new Warehouse District wine bar and meat market combo from the owners of Herbsaint and Cochon brings a loving Cajun inflection to the art of cured meat. Try the housemade boudin sausages or tasso ham, grab a muffuletta sandwich to go, or sample such irrestible $6 bar bites as andouille sausage pizzetta with a glass of Barbere d’Asti. Those bacon pralines? They’re the next big food fad in the making.
Each year, our team of voracious eaters sets off, fork in hand, to search out the world’s most exciting new restaurants – as always, traveling anonymously and paying for every last bite of foie gras. Countless courses later, we’ve narrowed the field to 50 tables in 26 countries. From bargain prix fixes in Paris to blowout feasts in Dubai, there’s something for every taste and budget. (Cochon Butcher) This self-described swine bar and eatery is chef-owner Donald Link’s addition to his wildly popular Cochon. Nestled behind the restaurant, the compact space ha a small market stocked with homemade charcuterie and pickled vegetables, as well as a handful of stools for sipping wine and tucking into small plates. Dishes like pickled pig’s feet and Cajun-spiced soppressata pay homage to both the pig and the Big Easy, and there’s a deliciously fatty pressed duck pastrami sandwich oozing with melted Gruyére. Tip: Come at lunch and don’t leave without trying the smoky bacon pralines.
In the hands of talented American chefs, the sandwich comes edible art. These seven takes on traditional lunch-box fare revisit the format with whimsy, style and spice. Today’s best sandwiches upend old notions about what belongs between two slices of bread. Although lettuce and mayo haven’t gotten the boot, America’s most notable sandwich artisans no longer feel obliged to include them. Chefs like Donald Link at New Orleans’s recently opened Cochon Butcher Shop apply the same finicky standards to sandwiches that they do to the rest of the menu. Cochon’s muffuletta admits only house-cured meats, from mortadella to Genoa salami to supple sliced ham. The chef also prepares his own giardiniera , the signature olive relish that marks a muffuletta.
While the classic hot dog with ketchup and mustard is near culinary perfection, the frank continues to inspire fresh versions at restaurants across the country. Here’s what chefs are teaching old dogs plenty of new tricks.
Cochon Butcher – Orleans
Boutique butcher-shop fans take note: The housemade meats are sold by the pound, as well as on sandwiches like the muffuletta or the hot pork sausage with mustard and sauerkraut.