Why Corner Table chef Thomas Boemer drove a mini van to Grand Cochon in Aspen

Thomas Boemer of Corner Table and Revival took home the top prize in the Grand Cochon culinary competition. He's the "Prince of Porc" [sic].

Thomas Boemer of Corner Table and Revival took home the top prize in the Grand Cochon culinary competition. He's the "Prince of Porc" [sic].

Corner Table and Revival's Thomas Boemer and crew returned victorious from Snowmass, Aspen early this week after taking the prize at Grand Cochon, the country's top pork cooking competition, devised to raise awareness around heritage breed hogs. 

"Being able to do that [emerge victorious] at a time when Minneapolis is firing at all cylinders, to be able to add to that even a little bit is an amazing feeling." 

We'd say he's adding a lot to the Twin Cities culinary renaissance, and is in fact one of the most integral characters to thank for it. Since our filigree-engraved invitations never arrived in the mail, we wanted to get his take on the Aspen competition and how things went down. 

Any disasters? 

"No. Me and my pastry chef drove a mini van out there literally packed with utensils. This was two months of planning and a ton of sacrifice by everyone in our restaurants. What you have to guard against is working in a foreign kitchen, because that is when variables and unknowns can happen. So it's all about preparation. I couldn't do a 'black box' competition, where you get five surprise ingredients and you have to whip something together in an hour. That's not for me." 

[And, for the record, none of the other nine chefs from around the country drove down a kitchen's worth of stuff. It's all about preparation, like the man said.]

Who was the stiffest competition? 

"There was amazing talent all around, but of course Jody [Adams, of Massachusetts's Rialto] who is a James Beard winner amongst other things, when you have someone like that in a competition you know you have to bring your A game. So we tried to think of the kinds of things that no one else would think of. "

What was the winning menu? 

"Pate en croute, a fairly elaborate display of a gold leaf pate en croute crown and a weaved pate en croute basket, which was to show true artisan craftsmanship. An 8-hour smoked pork jowl with hominy grits and pickled watermelon rind [get a taste of something similar in the Lexington Pork shoulder at Revival, which we recently wrote about], and Cracker Jack style chiccharrones with maple mascarpone and a 24-hour cooked apple. People felt very strongly about these dishes." 

Most memorable moments? 

"An absolutely mind-blowing experience was the Heritage Fire Event — you're at Snowmass where you're surrounded by mountains and green and absolutely perfect weather, and they had 3,000 pounds of whole animal cooking over open fire — whole sturgeon, whole octopus, whole pigs and lambs and goats, and a quarter beef all being cooked properly, and upright. And it's all to raise awareness around small, heritage breed animals from around the country. I don't know if I'll ever experience anything quite like that again in my life" 

What was the prize?

"A trip to Spain, and copious bourbon." 

What was the very best part? 

"There's amazing buzz out there around Minneapolis's culinary scene, a lot of national recognition around what we have to offer. We have the right people doing the right things in the right places right now. People just really finding their niche and hammering away. People recognizing that is an incredible feeling."

You can feel incredible too, by visiting one or both of Boemer's restaurants, where heritage breed pork features prominently on both menus.