The Return of the Butcher
Meet five top butchers from across the country who are reinventing the art of butchery.
The story behind our food is becoming more and more important these days. Culinary champs are stepping to the forefront to meet the challenge of producing high-quality and artfully prepared ingredients, making detailed knowledge of the food we’re eating (and loving) more accessible than ever.
A number of the most highly revered modern-day artisans are those that have managed to revive what feels like a long-forgotten craft—micro brewing, cheese making, or in this case, butchering. Phrases like house-cured, locally sourced, heritage breed, and pasture-raised are music to our ears. Buzz words they may be, but we think they’re here to stay—and with them, the butchers who give them meaning.
Here are a few of the personalities representing the triumphant return of the butcher, in the profession’s “No Guts, No Glory” fashion. Pun intended.
JAMES PEISKER AND CHRIS CARTER
Porter Road Butcher, Nashville, Tenn.
These two represent the promising return of the neighborhood butcher, except a classically trained, Forbes-ranking version. Carter (left) and Peisker (right) are both chefs turned whole-animal butchers and handsome young purveyors of locally raised, fresh-cut meats. At their East Nashville Porter Road Butcher shop these two offer catering services, and if you’re lucky, the occasional recipe suggestion scribbled on the back of your wrapped purchase.
This duo is committed not only to high-quality production and service that fosters the local economy, but also to fostering the local culture and conversation by encouraging customers to share pictures and comments of their finished products through social media.
Portland Meat Collective, Portland, Ore.
Dubbed “The Poet” by Wüsthof, elite manufacturer of precision knives, Davis represents the expressive nature of butchering and speaks eloquently to her passion. And appropriately so, considering her foray into the industry was encouraged by her career as a food writer, and the lack of knowledge concerning the meat industry she encountered in her pursuits.
Recognizing the disconnect between consumers and food production, she was inspired to embark on a quest for knowledge, beginning with a butchering apprenticeship overseas, and leading to the birth of the Portland Meat Collective, a community dedicated to teaching and learning about the farm-to-table journey of meat. The collective even offers hands-on classes ranging from whole-animal butchering, to meat curing, to sausage making.
Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tenn.
Chef Michael Sullivan is the butcher, also known as charcutier, fondly known as “The Reverend of Fat,” at East Tennessee’s award-winning resort property, Blackberry Farm, located in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. Sullivan acts as an ambassador of meats, participating in culinary events on the Farm, and others nationwide, such as Cochon 555, a traveling culinary competition (see video below). As director of the property’s meat curing program since 2007, Sullivan employs local Tennessee flavors such as sorghum and spice berries in flavoring his sausages and salami, both of which act, like Sullivan, as a delicious example of living history.
Range Inc., Chicago, Ill.
How many modern-day butchers can share documented credit for one of the most commonly used cuts of beef? This lady can. Underly, a third generation butcher and meat-cutter, and author of James Beard Award-nominated The Art of Beef Cutting: A Meat Professional’s Guide to Butchering and Merchandising, was recruited in 2002 by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association to collaborate on new, inexpensive and accessible cuts of beef. Then and there, the flat iron steak was born. That same year, Underly developed Range, Inc., a meat-minded organization dedicated to education, research, merchandising and creative services, including but not limited to marketing and brand development.
—By Alissa Harb