SF Chefs Goes Whole Hog

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SF Chef 2010, Seminar - Going whole hog - Stephen Gerike cutting off the trotters-photo by bonnibella
SF Chef 2010, Seminar - Going whole hog. Stephen Gerike cutting off the trotters. Tom Pizzica (left) assisted. Photo by bonnibella

Thursday's SF Chefs Whole Hog seminar mixed savory porcine dishes with butchery and cooking demos. The event was geared toward restaurant professionals, and honed in on how chefs and restaurant owners can purchase and use an entire hog while making money. Guests arrived to the Westin St. Francis hotel room by a sweet, BBQ nuanced smell which served as a preview for the dishes to come. Chef Stephen Gerike did most of the butchery, and is from the National Pork Board, a sponsor. “Unemployed Chef” Tom Pizzica assisted. Pizzica lives in “a one bedroom San Francisco apartment” and was a finalist on The Next Food Network Star.

Gerike and Pizzica prepared and butchered half of the pig on Wednesday, so that food would be ready to eat for the guests. They acknowledged that curing the hog is one popular use of whole animals, but that they had cooked up other options, including: Philly style roast pork sandwich with provolone and broccoli rabe; Trotter log (also known as foot cheese) and Achiote marinated al pastor.

trotter log. Photo by bonnibella
Trotter log. Photo by bonnibella

Chef Gerike says to avoid watery, sticky, or spongy pork. Ph level is important, and reddish, firm meat is the ideal to look for. Mid-way through the demo, questions from attendees ranged from “What is the difference between a picnic ham and a butt shoulder,” to “What will I pay for pork?” Gerike also debated the cooking temperatures, pointing out that the foodservice required temp is lower than that for consumers. “There’s a reason why people find pork to be tough… if it’s been cooked too long, it will be tough. Keep it to 137 degrees and allow it to rest for three minutes before serving. Then it will get to the medium temp you want, of 145 degrees.”


Of all the 90+ slides Chef Gerike showed, one for a dish called the Bacon Turtle, made out of bacon, seemed to garner a mix of interest and humor from guests. Scrapple, a dish popular in other parts of the country, was described as a mix of pork heart, liver, and kidney that is braised. It is then strained and the meat is pulled and blended with buckwheat, polenta, and sage. After being refrigerated, it is fried, usually for breakfast. Gerike said, “It’s the same thing as boudin, or black pudding. A version in Cincinnati calls for oatmeal.”

cerdo al pastor. Photo by bonnibella
Cerdo al pastor. Photo by bonnibella

Chef Pizzica used achiote, dried peppers, toasted pasillas, ancho, clove, cumin, tomato, and onion to marinate the al pastor pork. Marinating for 24 hours infuses the meat with flavor and also tenderizes it. The resulting tacos were made from leg meat that Pizzica pronounced to be “mucho sabor.” The samples were happily gobbled as soon as the waitstaff set plates in front of guests; one napkin was barely enough for the red and sometimes oily hands that followed. Chef Pizzica recommended using an extremely hot char-broiler to cook the meat, and using reduced marinade while cooking for added flavor. The one hard and fast rule Chef Pizzica recommended for cooking with pork was using salt and pepper to season. “You can’t do pork without salt and pepper,” he said.

Mary Ladd is a staff member for the SF Chefs 2010 events.