Getting Piggy With It: Thomas McNaughton Talks Pork, Partying, & Upcoming Cookbook

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If you ask us, no one is heating up the S.F. culinary scene quite like Thomas McNaughton of Flour + Water, Central Kitchen, and soon-to-open Salumeria. He’s taking over our city’s resto turf by storm (he landed a spot as one of our hottest chefs under 30) with his three-restaurant empire, and this weekend he’s lending his skills to the unique traveling pork-themed event Cochon 555.
The innovative, multi-city food fete features five winemakers, five chefs, and five pigs. Thomas will be on-site competing against local chefs like Anthony Strong (another chef to make our list) to concoct the perfect meat-filled meal using all parts of the assigned heritage pig. We caught up with him ahead of the event to talk pork, partying (or the lack thereof), and his pet piggy Kona.
Can you tell us a little more about the event?
"It’s a great event. It promotes bringing back heritage pigs. The one that was given to us is called the Red Waddle. Of all the breeds, it was probably the closest one to extinction. It’s promoting small farms and producers who are really trying to bring back these once-lost pigs."
How did you get involved with Cochon 555?
"Brady, the founder of the event, knew that we only used whole animals at Flour + Water and that we go through many a pig a week. He reached out and contacted us, so we did it a couple of years ago and are doing it again this year. It’s a really unique event: It’s five pigs from five farms and five winemakers. It’s a competition, but it’s not a competition."
If you could pig out on any meal what would it be?
"My favorite meal in the world is an amazing bottle of wine, cheeses, homemade salumi, nuts, almonds, and fresh fruit. But it’s funny because since we just opened up Central Kitchen and we're about to open up Salumeria soon — there is zero food inside my kitchen. But I really love eating at home."
Speaking of your home, would you say you’re a pig or are you the tidy type?
"Well, I own a pig. I live right above Flour + Water and she has a large deck. She’s house trained and uses a kitty litter."
What’s her name?
"Kona. She’s an awesome pet, and ridiculously cute. I describe her as the worst girlfriend in the world. She’s the most needy animal I’ve ever met in my life. If I’m sitting on the couch, put her in the other room, or come home late — she’s squealing. She’s very sweet though."
Any plans to get her a companion?
"It’s actually too late. I really wanted to, but at this point the bond with their owners so strongly, that if I were to introduce another pig it wouldn’t work. She gets along really well with other animals, but if I were to bring in another pig they wouldn’t get along."
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re off work?
"I just opened up Central Kitchen about eight days ago and we are about to open Salumeria, so I probably haven’t had a day off in two months. But if I did have a day off, I’d probably go for a hike or a sail or go outside and adventure a little bit."
Can tell us a little bit about the upcoming cookbook?
"Well, we built a test kitchen above Flour + Water, where there are also two apartments — one I live in, and the other one is for our offices. We built a massive test kitchen. This is where we are testing all the recipes for the cookbook and it also has a library for all the cooks."
Which chef are you looking forward to going up against this weekend?
"I’d say Traci [Des Jardins]. I think we’re most excited to up against her because she is probably the biggest challenge and is one of the most respected chefs ever."
Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux

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