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Chef Michael Perez Talks Heritage Pork

Interview with Cochon555 Atlanta Chef

Cochon555 is a culinary competition in support of foodways and family farms producing heritage breed pigs. The Atlanta edition of the event takes place on Sunday, June 25th at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead. Chef Michael Perez will be one of the five featured chefs creating unique dishes using heritage pork.

Chef Michael Perez’s culinary career started with a desire to travel the world. After hearing a chef describe his experiences travelling abroad, he decided to give up his dream of being a flight attendant and enroll in culinary school. After graduating from Johnson and Wales University-Miami, Michael cooked aboard two Norwegian Cruise lines before returning to his hometown of Portland, OR, to train under the French-trained chef at the Timberland Lodge. He then served as Sous Chef at two other Portland eateries before moving to California in 2010 to assume the role of Sous Chef under the Food Network’s Scott Conant at his award-winning Beverly Hills restaurant, Scarpetta. He also served on the opening team for Scarpetta in as Las Vegas’ Cosmopolitan Hotel. Michael continued his culinary journey by become Executive Chef at the Deep Creek Fishing Club in Ninilchik, Alaska.

In 2011, Chef Michael moved to Charleston, SC where he joined the Indigo Road restaurant family. He was part of the opening team for the group’s Italian concept, Indaco. In 2015, Michael relocated to Atlanta where he opened Indigo Road’s second Italian restaurant, Colletta, located in Alpharetta’s premier Avalon development. He is currently working to open the high-anticipated  Donetto, a Tuscan-inspired restaurant on the Westside, where he will serve as Executive Chef serving an array of meat-centric dishes and a rotating pasta menu from the regions of Sienna, Umbria and Rome.

DiningOut: What is your earliest or strongest food memory of pork?

Chef Michael: My earliest memory of pork would be one of my mom cooking pozole with big chunks of pork shoulder in it. I always asked her to make it for me when I was sick as a kid.

What is it about pigs (or pork) that makes this meat so mystical and beloved?

I think what is so great about pork is the versatility of all of the muscles, bones, skin, offal. It’s truly a product you can use every single part of.

                                               Photo Credit: Galdones Photography

What is your favorite pork cut – and how would you prepare it?

My favorite cut is the shoulder primal. I like to take the coppa out and cure for 24 hours and cold smoke then sous vide. Then I like to grill it; so tender and juicy. The rest of the shoulder I like to grind for sausage.

Who taught you how to butcher?

One of my old mentors, Jack Yoss, taught me how to butcher. We sort of ‘learned’ the curing process together.

Tell us what makes heritage breeds so different.

I think, like with heirloom vegetables, it is important to preserve the heritage breeds. Each one is so special depending on what you intend to use it for it is a really special thing.

DiningOut Atlanta is proud to be a media sponsor of Cochon555. Please join us for an epic culinary experience centered on 1500 pounds of heritage breed pork prepared by some Atlanta’s top chefs. The event also highlights mixology and winemaking with distillers, bartenders, and even artisan cheesemongers. Part of the proceeds will go to the nonprofit Piggy Bank charity to protect and promote heritage breed species. Visit cochon555.com for ticket information and a full lineup of experiences.

By Denise Romeo