That morning when I stepped off the bus in Red Hook and looked down towards the end of the pier, it hit me. This was my future. This is what I’ve been planning and waiting for and now, here I am. Standing in front of a weathered, wharf warehouse, waiting for my life to kickstart. At the end of the pier there was a small sign hanging on a fabricated metal door. It read “Fleishers Craft Butchery.”
Let’s do this.
As I entered the building I was immediately embraced by my new coworkers: Timmy, a fellow apprentice from Chicago who was tired of trading stocks and my instructor, Jason, who left the DA’s office in New York to become a craft butcher. I could tell I was really going to like these guys.
Straightaway, I felt like a kid on the first day of school. New teacher. New friends. New supplies. I was given my equipment that included chain-mail and knives. The chain-mail apron runs from the top of the chest to just above the kneecaps. Its purpose is to protect important things like femoral arteries. The chain-mail glove, which I’ve come to greatly appreciate, lets me be free with my non-cutting hand and I don’t have to constantly worry about nicking myself. Of the three knives I was given, one was a 5-inch boning knife, another was a 6-inch boning knife, and lastly an 8-inch “breaker.”
Jason started us off slow and had us de-bone a lamb’s neck. He gave us step-by-step instructions on how to break down a lamb, all the while educating us on its anatomy. After a quick “warm-up” break (because it’s 37 degrees in the processing room) he pointed to the rack and told us rookies to give it a shot.
Timmy and I were slow and we asked a lot of questions. But practice makes perfect and by the end of the morning and six lambs later, we had become faster on the full carcass break down as well as savvier on the lamb anatomy.
Of course I came to Fleishers to learn, but I was starting to see I would be gaining so much more than butcher skills. I could immediately sense the tight community these craft butchers have. They really believe in the idea of slow food, locally sourced food, and conscientious food. While Timmy and I were hacking away in the walk-in cooler, the Fleishers chef was busy preparing us lunch. I couldn’t believe it. Everyday these folks stop, sit down, and share a beautiful meal together. Family style. What a nice surprise and delicious blessing.
After lunch we were back to the cutting block for a lesson in pork. Jason gave us a demo and then prompted us to do the same with our own sides of pork.
Again, I was slow and loaded with lots of questions, but Jason was patient and his clear step-by-step method simplified everything for me.
At 4:15 Jason instructed us to start cleaning our equipment and prepare to wrap up the day. Here’s the problem,
I didn’t want to leave.
My first day of apprenticeship rocked and I didn’t want to go back to my apartment and stare at the hairless cat. Gratefully, Sophie, Fleishers' social media guru, asked me if we wanted to tag along on a company outing.
Are you kidding me,
Hell yeah, I’m going.
(to be continued)