While exquisite food and wine pairings and cooking demonstrations attract thousands of people each summer to San Francisco’s SF Chefs, pork stole the show at the 2010 celebration in Union Square.
“Pork was front and center at this premiere event,” says Stephen Gerike, director of foodservice marketing for the National Pork Board. “SF Chefs offered a great way to showcase pork not only to the public, but to leading chefs.”
During the mid-August food festival, which was covered by media outlets and food bloggers, a Grand Tasting tent transformed Union Square into a culinary adventure filled with the unique flavors, agricultural diversity and bounty of California. The California Pork Producers Association and Scott Long from Long Ranch in Ripon, Calif., donated twenty-one hogs for SF’s Chefs opening night reception, “Hog in the Fog”, which allowed the public to enjoy a taste of high-quality pork prepared by seventeen area restaurants.
Demonstration captures chefs’ imaginations
Interest in pork soared when Gerike teamed up with Tom Pizzica, a finalist on season six of the Next Food Network Star, to host a “How to Use the Whole Hog” demonstration for a large crowd of chefs at the Westin St. Francis Hotel.
“Many chefs tend to be familiar with just a few cuts of pork, but when they have a better understanding about where the different cuts come from, they have more confidence to experiment with pork,” says Gerike, who noted that nearly 140 San Francisco restaurants featured pork in the week leading up to SF Chefs. “When I broke down the carcass, you could see light bulbs going on as chefs learned about the difference between a loin back rib and a spare rib, and saw that a pork butt comes from the top of the shoulder, not the leg.”
Pizzica, who has attended the Culinary Innovation Workshop at California’s Greystone Culinary Institute, conducted recipe demonstrations with tacos al pastor, porketta sandwiches and crispy pork hocks made from hocks and trotters. The information was timely, especially with the trend of restaurateurs buying whole hogs from producers, Gerike says.
“Everyone has this dream that they’ll make their own prosciutto and other pork products when they buy a whole hog, but the process can tie up inventory for months, and there are no guarantees that the results will be successful. I wanted to show chefs how to use various pork cuts and make money on their investment now.”
As San Francisco develops its food and wine festival to rival those in New York City and Aspen, events like SF Chefs offer excellent opportunities to promote pork, Gerike adds. “As a gold sponsor of both SF Chefs and the Golden Gate Restaurants Association’s restaurant week, pork received a lot of value and publicity for a minimal investment.”