Mary Tutwiler

Whole hog over Cochon

by Mary Tutwiler

Louisiana cooking has been on the national hotplate this week. Following Esquire magazine’s ordering two New Orleans poboys in their top 40 sandwiches in the country, New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni chose Cochon , in New Orleans, as one of the 10 best new restaurants in America . Cochon (French for pig) is the brain child of Lake Charles native, Chef Donald Link, and pays homage to Cajun cooking. The menu at Cochon reads like the offerings at a boucherie, plating house-made boudin, andouille, smoked bacon, hogs head cheese, cochon de lait, grilled pork ribs, pickled pork tongue and butter beans slow cooked with a ham hock. Bruni’s criteria were that the restaurants had to be outside of New York City, and to have opened between Jan. 1, 2006, and Dec. 31, 2007. Against all odds, Link opened Cochon in the spring of 2006, nine months after Hurricane Katrina hit the Crescent City. Bruni has high praise for Link’s authenticity to his roots married to innovative cooking:

"New York is absurdly blessed, but of course the city doesn’t have it all. It doesn’t have anything exactly like Cochon, in New Orleans, which liberates Cajun cooking from its deep-fried clichés. With its stylishly casual vibe, fatty abandon, worship of pork (cochon is French for pig) and fervent devotees, it’s a Momofuku on the Mississippi."

Earlier this year, Link was awarded the 2007 James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef: South.