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Chef Amar Santana Interview: Upcoming PigOut 3.0 benefit, Templeton Rye Project

Last year's PigOut 2.0 was an exciting, delicious event
Last year's PigOut 2.0 was an exciting, delicious event
Photo courtesy of Ann Watson Photography

Chef Amar Santana of Laguna Beach's Broadway by Amar Santana is passionate about Orange County and the people who work in the restaurant industry. He is also passionate about his favorite meat, pork. Chef Amar spoke with the Examiner yesterday about the upcoming PigOut 3.0, a benefit dinner event coming up on August 24. He is one of 15 chefs participating in the event, but will be the only one to cook the 210 pound pig from the Templeton Rye Heritage Pork Project.

Chef Amar Santana will be cooking a special Templeton Pork Project Pig at the Pig Out 3.0 benefit for I AM
Edward Simon

“I think it's really neat about the Templeton Rye Project. I had heard about it online when the news was first released and I thought, 'Wow, that sounds cool!'. I think for here, especially here in the United States, it's one of the best ideas in the food industry. I feel that a lot of people would copy that and do the same thing, not just with pigs but you could do that with cows, you could do it with anything. Just like the way they do the Wagyu cows in Japan, you give them the sake, the bottom of what their rice mash is, like they do with the mash so you know that's really cool when they do that here with the mash before they distill the Bourbons”, Chef Amar said.

Chef Amar continued, “It's just like the smartest idea. You're feeding them the corn mash with alcohol from the fermentation process. What you end up getting is super-happy pigs who run around drunk but the can't get out, they just get super fat, they eat everything! I mean, that sounds like the best life ever, you know what I mean? According to the people, the meat is super fatty and the fat actually tastes really good, so I can't wait to have that pig right in front of me, try different cuts and see what this pig is all about”.

For PigOut 3.0, Chef Amar will be cooking several dishes from one of only 25 pigs that were in the original Templeton Rye Heritage Pork Project. Templeton Rye Spirits, located in Templeton, Iowa, decided to work closely with some livestock providers nearby to create the innovative project. The project uses registered Duroc pigs, known for their quality. The pig's diet was specially formulated to best utilize the mash by-product of the distilling process. The program is supervised by a team of experts in Animal Nutrition, animal Science and of course pig farming.

For Chef Amar, part of the reason he is so enthusiastic about the Templeton Rye Project is his experiences as a child. He said, “I haven't tried the product yet but I'm very excited. Once I get it and I start playing around with it and taste the meat, because even when I was growing up in the Dominican Republic there was a part of the island that was known for doing goat. It was roasted goat which they roast the whole thing, but what was so special about this goat was that they grew up on a farm where they raised a lot of oregano. The goats, all day long all they would eat was oregano. They would eat the whole farm's oregano, that was their whole thing”.

Chef Amar expanded on this, saying, “Once you cooked this goat, you could taste the oregano like it was just rubbed fresh on top of it. It was so tasty! It was one of those memories that I remember, eating it over there when I was a young kid, but I never understood the 'why' of anything like that and now that I understand, it's like 'I wish I could go back there now and eat that goat again because now I understand that if you eat oregano, you're going to taste like oregano!'. In Spain, they have a very good pork because they eat acorns. The pig, when they cure the hams, tastes like acorns. Nutty, fatty; it's amazing how that plays out “.

PigOut 3.0 grew out of Chef Amar's love of Orange County and his devotion to the restaurant industry. The event is a benefit for I AM, which is a community culture project by 100eats.com. I AM stands for 'Inspire Artistic Minds'. Chef Amar explained, “Bobby Navarro and I are friends, he used to work for me at Charlie Palmer's and also here, we've been really good friends. We care so much about the industry and Orange County”. He felt that the Orange County restaurant industry was not getting the credibility it deserved. Instead, Los Angeles got all the praise, even though Orange County had an equally high caliber of chef and restaurants.

Chef Amar explained the genesis of PigOut, saying “We had this idea three years ago for doing this PigOut! event, because I wanted to put Orange County on the map with this event, saying, 'Hey, we know food here. We're not the 'Real Housewives of Orange County', we're not eating steamed asparagus and salmon and hollandaise sauce', we're actually serious chefs and we cook and we're doing some great things here. So we started the whole PigOut! event with Bobby and then he had this great idea of starting this organization with it called I AM, basically to give back to the culinary community, to the restaurant business, not just chefs in the kitchen but everything, from the front of the house servers who want to enhance their career and they want the organization to pay for them to become a sommelier, to take a course and educate themselves more”.

He continued, “I AM helps the cook who wants to go to pastry school for a week's course just to learn pastries. Or the bartender who needs to go enhance her career, go somewhere, attend a seminar; that's what the organization is doing. So they are helping those who want to further their education to be better in this industry. By doing that, it's just going to make the restaurant where they work and the restaurant industry in Orange County stand out and to make it better than it used to be. We want to make them better, we want them to be better for themselves, because if they do better for themselves they do better for the restaurant that they work for in Orange County and then those restaurants look better and it puts Orange County on the map as a destination to eat and come enjoy the restaurant. This is why it's a great organization and he's doing a great job with it”.

Chef Amar has some interesting dishes in the works for PigOut 3.0. He explained, “One of the things I'm going to be doing is---I kind of want to keep it simple because I want to let the pork speak for itself---so one of the dishes I'm going to do is a Carolina barbecued pulled pork. Basically I'm going to dry rub half of the animal, smoke it right here in the oven, just roast it over night, and then I'm just going to sprinkle over it vinegar, black pepper and a little sugar. I'm not going to use a heavy red sauce or anything like that. I'm going to serve that with a cornbread puree and then I'm going to do a sour orange mojo sauce. I'm going to just drizzle that on top”.

Chef Amar has another dish planned for the lucky guests at PigOut 3.0. He said, “The next one I'm going to do is nice, juicy pork meatballs with foie gras. I'm going to serve that over parsnip puree. I'm also going to sprinkle some 'everything spice', like you would put on a bagel, dried garlic, toasted sesame seeds, over that. Each chef is going to create their own dishes but I will be the only one using the Templeton Rye pig.”.

Proceeds of the benefit will go towards helping the Inspire Artistic Minds program. An auction also will be held at the event, for the attendees to get freshly cut, wrapped, packed and ready to cook parts of the Templeton Rye Duroc pig at home. PigOut 3.0 will be held on August 24, 2014 from 3 to 7pm. Purchases of a special VIP ticket will be able to attend a pre-event champagne reception at 2pm with the Chefs, as well as a complimentary dessert item. More information about the event can be obtained from the event's website. More information on the Templeton Rye Heritage Pork Project can be obtained from this Los Angeles Times article.

Chef Amar summed up the event by saying, “Bobby's doing it and I'm helping him out because it's a part of the industry, it's helping what we do to make everybody better.This is going to be a great event. I've been telling everybody about it. You get to eat everything pork, you get to drink and have fun!”.

PigOut 3.0

Sunday, August 24, 2014 from 3 to 7pm

Event to be held at California Scenario (Noguchi Gardens)

611 Anton Blvd.

Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Event web page

I AM website

Broadway by Amar Santana website