It’s no secret that chefs really like to party. And in the food world, you’re always celebrating something.
Which is all fun and good until you realize a party oftentimes means extra work, piled on top of the regular, grueling task of running a restaurant. Take Il Buco, which just celebrated its 20th birthday with a sidewalk pig roast. Sure it sounds like the best block party ever (and it was probably worth it), but the two pigs (supplied by Flying Pigs Farm) were roasting all night — which meant chef Joel Hough manned the fire from 1 a.m. Saturday night until showtime, 12 hours later.
And then there was the rain. Scattered showers started some 20 minutes after the team built the fire. This not only made handling the hefty hog just a little more difficult, it also affected the fire. “The fires took a bit longer to get up and hot due to the amount of water in the grill boxes,” chef Hough said.
Technical difficulties aside, the pigs were roasted for some 12 hours, served alongside porchetta paninis, apple-pork sausages, panzanella, pasta Genovese and ricotta fritters (a portion of the proceeds benefitted Edible Schoolyard NYC). And thankfully, Hough had a couple friends, plus Argentinian “Fire Chef” Francis Mallmann, to help him along the way.
We stopped by right at the beginning to capture the scene Sunday morning, as bargoers walked by exclaiming, “Lord, there’s some Hannibal shit up in here.”
Editor’s note: The following photos brilliantly capture the prep for a rare Manhattan happening, but they contain graphic imagery that might not be for everyone.
Chef Joel tends to the fire as he waits for the Flying Pigs Farm’s hogs to get delivered.
The pigs arrive in the back of a car.
It takes four men to haul the first pig onto a table. It is 287 pounds.
First step: hack the pig open. “We cut the spine open to splay the pigs shoulders so that it could be laid flat against the grill,” Hough said. The same was done to the pelvis.
Second step: Fasten heavy bars to the pig’s legs using thick wire.
1:39 a.m. – 2:07 a.m.
This takes longer than you might think, and requires some hefty pliers.
Meanwhile, the second pig gets moved into the restaurant…
As wires get sewn through the first pig.
2:19 a.m. – 2:32 a.m.
A giant catering grill is placed on top of the pig, which is fastened with the heavy wires that were threaded through the beast.
The entire team pitches in to lift the pig off the table
And onto an A-frame structure, which took three hours to build earlier that day. The team took ¾-inch rebars and welded them together.
Another group hauls the second pig out onto the table…
Hough and his crew get the fire going, despite the rain.
And the pig continues to roast away for another 12 hours.
Photo credit: Jessica Chou