There will be more than 40 culinary professionals ready to impress you at the Second Annual Butcher’s Ball on Sunday, October 15. Well, that’s not totally true. There could be twice that many working the event.

“For the last month, I have had chefs calling me every single day,” said Felix Florez, who is one of the co-organizers of The Butcher’s Ball and who is overseeing the Le Boucherie vs. La Matanza event. “They all want to know what they can do, how they can help. And there are going to be many more Houston chefs working on each team (boucherie or matanza) than just the actual team members,” he mentions.

“Oh, so like their sous chefs are going to come help assist?” I asked.

“No, like other Houston executive chefs are going to be there helping them, doing anything they can to help them out. It’s going to be a lot of chefs,” explained Florez. “Putting this together has been a second full-time thing for me.”

Want an idea of what the event will include? Check out the preview video, below, which also highlights some of the best moments from the event’s inaugural event, in 2016.

The players

At this year’s Butcher’s Ball, all guests will be walking throughout the grounds of the Rockin’ Star Ranch in Brenham, enjoying a lazy Sunday afternoon of eating barbecue and specialty meat dishes from 17 competing Texas chefs, from meat raised by 44 Farms, Yonder Way Farm, Louisiana Foods, Black Hill Ranch, Three Sisters Farms and Liberty Provisions. Proceeds will go towards Piggy Bank, which is helping Texas farmers hurt by Harvey. Perhaps you know some of the competitors on the roster:

ARA MALEKIAN – Harlem Road Texas BBQ (Richmond)
BEN RUNKLE – Salt & Time (Austin)
BOBBY MATOS – State of Grace
JEFF WHITE – Boiler House (San Antonio)
LANCE GILLUM – Uchi Houston
MONICA POPE – Sparrow Cook Shop
OLIVER SITRIN – Blind Butcher (Dallas)
RYAN SAVOIE – Saint Arnold
WADE ELKINS – My Yard Reaction BBQ
WILLOW VILLARREAL – Willow’s Texas BBQ (last year’s Golden Cleaver winner)

EJ Miller is back for the 2017 Butcher's Ball Golden Cleaver Contest.

EJ Miller is back for the 2017 Butcher’s Ball Golden Cleaver Contest.

Yes, each of these chefs will have their own table set up, ready to wow you with savory vittles and second tastes, as long as they haven’t run out. However, this year’s Butcher’s Ball has incorporated a whole-hog throwdown competition, too, which is where the boucherie/matanza event comes in.

Boucherie and matanza

Boucherie is the name for the Cajun practice of butchering a live pig and cooking dishes from the entirety of the animal, generally a team effort and saved for family gatherings, celebrations and holidays. Matanza is its cousin, a Spanish pig-slaughtering event practiced in many Latin countries. If you’ve never experienced either, this is your chance to experience both.

This portion of the Butcher’s Ball will start at 8 am on Sunday morning. The pig will be killed, then completely broken down until 10 am, when the chefs will take over and begin cooking for six hours. At 4 pm, it’s knives down: Both teams must submit their dishes to be judged by attendees. Each team must create four to five dishes to tasters.

Team Boucherie

On Team Boucherie are chef Graham Laborde (Killen’s), Jeff Weinstock (Cake & Bacon), Joe Cervantez (Brennan’s), Matt Lovelace (formerly of Triniti), Michael Nutt (Cafe Rabelais) and Randy Evans (H-E-B). “So many of these chefs have either a Creole or French background in cooking,” said Felix, who is a Brennan’s alumni along with Randy Evans, Joe Cervantez and Jeff Weinstock.

“I’ve done several boucheries myself, and people have been asking me lately when the next one would be. When we were talking about what we were going to do for this year’s event, I thought it would be a good way to incorporate a boucherie,” said Florez. “But then I was thinking, you know I’m Hispanic, it would be cool to do a matanza too, so I thought about the chefs who would also be great for that team.”

Team Matanza

“When I was a kid I’d go with my dad to our family’s property that we’ve had in South Texas [since the 1800s] and we would meet up with my uncles and grandparents and either butcher a pig or a goat from one of the farms, and so this is something I grew up doing and I loved. And I told my dad that when I have three sons, we’re going to do it too. And now I have three sons, and it’s important to me that we carry on this tradition.” Florez invited chef Alex Padilla (Ninfa’s on Navigation), David Cordua (Américas), Javier Lopez (Sysco), Kevin Callahan (Ritual), Peter Garcia (El Meson) and Philippe Gaston (Izakaya) to participate on the Spanish side.

While Florez himself isn’t competing, he is butchering the pig and has been helping both teams prepare their menus.

Don't overdo it during the Boucherie vs. Matanza competition. There is still the Golden Cleaver contest to taste. Featured is the 2016 Golden Cleaver winning team, headed by Willow Villarreal.

Don’t overdo it during the Boucherie vs. Matanza competition. There is still the Golden Cleaver contest to taste. Featured is the 2016 Golden Cleaver winning team, headed by Willow Villarreal.

For most of the chefs, this isn’t their first time to use a broken-down hog in the kitchen, and many of them have competed against each other. The challenge might actually be more about the teams of so many esteemed executive chefs working together, and guests who purchase the morning’s boucherie/matanza tickets will be able to sit in on everything from the slaughter and break down to the camaraderie and rivalry between chefs on both teams.

Le Boucherie vs. La Matanza: It starts bright and early

For an additional $50 attendees can get this rare behind-the-scenes look at an entire day’s worth of butchering and cooking beginning at 8 am, before the official Butcher’s Ball event even starts, as well as enjoy on-site breakfast from Cake & Bacon, as well as drinks and juice from Yauatcha’s Lainey Collum and Robin Berwick of Double Trouble Caffeine & Cocktails. Katz Coffee will host a pop-up espresso bar, too, so if you’re in need of an extra buzz or bite while you watch the early competition, you’re in luck.

Attendees of this early event will also have the opportunity to assist in the breakdown of the pig and preparation of dishes designed by the competing chefs if desired. It is quite literally a hands-on experience.

“What’s your game plan?” I asked Philippe Gaston, hoping that he’d dish on some sort of signature intricate delicacy he was planning to prepare. “We’re are planning on camping out the night before and to get started early in the day. Get the heating elements hot and ready, and start prepping. We already chose what part of the hog we are using individually. The rest is just talking shit and having fun.”

was told that most chefs will be taking Saturday night off to party at the Rockin’ Star Ranch, enjoying an evening of friendship and whiskey and cigars. “That’s [it], the camaraderie of the whole thing. Between both teams, I think 90% of us have worked together at some point so there will be a lot of teasing.” But what happens when someone has to be the loser? While one team will take home the winning title, both teams are expected to create impressive submissions. “I think we have the advantage on time since Latin dishes tend to be a little easier on technique but both sides have dishes that will take ‘slow and low’ to the next level.”

For Michael Nutt, who puts out French classics at Cafe Rabelais, this isn’t his first rodeo. “[My first time to do] traditional Louisiana-style boucherie, [was] last year. But my family used to do something similar when we would have a family reunion in Dallas, but with different food. My extended family is huge so we would rent out the church rec room for a couple days. One of my aunts had a small farm that we would get a pig from. That’s how my mom’s family grew up. With 10 kids, my grandparents had a general store and farm. What they didn’t eat they sold at the store.”


If you’d like to have access to this event, simply click here to buy your Butcher’s Ball general admission ticket and your Boucherie vs. Matanza add-on ticket. “My mom still gets sick to the stomach when she remembers her dad killing animals in her front yard,” Nutt added. If the idea of witnessing the butchery portions of the day’s activities is more than you’re able to watch, don’t fret. You’ll have an excellent time at the Golden Cleaver tasting, which begins at 1 pm. Awards and winners will be announced at 5 pm.

General admission tickets: $100 (children under 12 are $25)
Boucherie vs. Matanza tickets: $50
Reserved VIP table for 10: $1500

All proceeds from the Second Annual Butcher’s Ball will go towards assisting Texas farmers and ranchers who were affected by Hurricane Harvey.