This year, Chicago's Stephanie Izard (Girl & The Goat) was one of them, and I spoke to her about the event while she prepared to serve 1,000 VIP guests at the luxe Aspen Meadows complex here. She's in supremely good company.
Past Chicago winners have included Takashi Yagihashi, Grant Achatz, Paul Kahan and Bruce Sherman. The event also features a lot of seminars for consumers, mostly on wine pairing and cooking demos, but another aspect of the weekend includes the American Express Restaurant Trade Program, for which I serve as a moderator on a number of panels, featuring the industry leaders in front of, and behind the stove.
On Sunday, after a lot of the consumers had gone home, the Cochon 555 event held its national finals competition here at the Hotel Jerome. Again, I got to serve as one of the judges, which meant trying out 10 different chefs' interpretations of 10 different heritage breed pigs; each chef offered us three different tastes. It was a magnificent pork-a-palooza to wrap-up a star-studded, food-and-wine-filled weekend.