Butcher, chef and owner of 4505 Meats, San Francisco, and author of Whole Beast Butchery
How did you start on this path of butchery? I started washing dishes when I was 14, and pretty much have spent my whole life in restaurants. I left the restaurant I was at (Orson, San Francisco) and went to work for a nonprofit, helping homeless and drug-addicted people by teaching them how to cook as part of a re-entry program back into society. From educating through classes, we started making chicharrones (pork rinds) and selling them at bars and farmers markets. That turned into 4505 Meats – and Whole Beast Butchery followed. It’s been pretty amazing.
How did it happen that we stopped knowing where our food comes from?
From a business point of view, it makes sense to buy processed food in bulk. And that’s really what started happening in America. But when people wanted to know where their fruits and vegetables came from, they started to think about other foods, too.
What is it that makes you so passionate about butchery, which until recently was a dying art in the U.S.? There’s beauty in using a whole animal and making something from every part of it. From sausage to head cheese to smoked trotters to pork rinds … there’s so much you can do.
The “A Most Extraordinary Meat Dinner” you’re doing at town restaurant April 27 features you and Bruce Aidells, the famous sausage king, as guest chefs, along with town owners Ed Kenney and Dave Caldiero. Can you give us an idea of what’s going to be on the menu? I’m guessing a few sausages. We’re serving charcuterie using local meats – venison tartar, a smoked sausage course from Bruce, local pork dishes – and one thing we’re looking forward to doing is our lambchetta. It’s lamb loin wrapped in lamb belly. The skin gets nice and crispy as it protects the loin and keeps it juicy. It’s a really popular dish.
Your chicharrones are ridiculously popular. People say they taste like candy. How does pork rind get such a gourmet following? (Laughs) Our chicharrones … they are definitely different. They are like cotton candy porklicious clouds. People eat them like candy, and they can’t believe how they taste. It’s our first product, so it’s very exciting for us to see people enjoy them.
I know it’s your first trip to Honolulu. Do you have any idea which local restaurants you’re going to hit? I am a firm believer in letting my stomach make all the major decisions. I plan on eating everything in Hawaii that I see.