In the beginning, I was just an extra – tagging along with Kate and Dominique.
Man, I was damn lucky. What ended up happening in Copenhagen in the confines of Folkets Madhus on that late August weekend changed not only my life, but potentially butchers across the world.
We journeyed into the industrial side of Copenhagen on Thursday afternoon. The streets were lined with soccer fields, communal gardens, and countless bicyclists. Nestled between a couple of old warehouses laid our destination: Folkets Madhus.
There we were met with open arms – Michael Museth introduced us to his team and gave us a quick tour around his impressive facility. Folkets Madhus is comprised of:
- a large commercial kitchen,
- a dining hall for catering events,
- a sausage preparation room,
- an incredible teaching kitchen,
- and office space available for rent to similar businesses.
Did I mention the Cold War-era bomb shelter out back? Or the organic garden on top of the bomb shelter?
That night, we had a traditional Danish meal of stegt flæsk med persillesovs and got acquainted with Hendrik and the Viking contingent of the Butchers' Manifesto. In case you are wondering what stegt flæsk med persillesovs is, it is fried slices of pork belly with a parsley sauce.
The next day, butchers slowly trickled through the front door. They came from various points in Europe and North America: butchers from Oregon, Canada, London, Amsterdam, Gascony, Poland, Germany, Denmark…. and of course Texas.
Michael constantly made sure we felt comfortable and at home – he even showed us a pork shoulder without a purpose in cold storage.
In a room full of butchers, that pork shoulder didn’t have a chance!
I immediately broke out my knives and removed all the bones. I scored the skin on the opposite side and Dominique took over from there. He gave the shoulder some salt and pepper as well as a beer to braise in. Since Michael had casually talked about Texas barbecue earlier in the day – I felt it was a perfect time to break out my great-grandmother's recipe.
While I prepared the sauce, Dominique took a pork tenderloin, covered it in mustard and placed it in the oven. Then he decided it was time for my final test under his supervision: Pâté de Campagne.
Taking the unused scraps and unwanted pieces of meat, along with potatoes, onions, and blanched liver, we made good use of Michael’s commercial kitchen. Two hours later, I had four beautiful terrines of pâté resting, waiting to be appreciated by my new meat friends and connoisseurs.
Not to be outdone, the Danes got busy in the kitchen as well. Gustav, a Danish master butcher the same age as I, prepared Rullepølse – rolled pig belly with sage, tied, put into a mold and boiled.
Absolutely amazing flavor!
As the crowd gathered, I shook hands and got to know some of the guys. Who would have thought I would run into a familiar face, but there was John Ratliff, owner of Ends Meat in Brooklyn. I originally met John back in NYC when I was apprenticing at Fleishers. He had given us a tour of his shop where he produces a wide variety of Italian-style charcuterie. He and his shop were one of the driving forces that originally led me to France to learn charcuterie.
The meat world is so small!
That evening, all of the butchers gathered around the large table in Folkets Madhus to officially begin the summit. Michael told his inspirational story and his motivation for the gathering. One by one, people stood and formally introduced themselves until it was time to “break bread.” After a few beers, Michael suggested we head to bed to rest up for the long day ahead of us. Slowly, the crowd of butchers drifted across the street to an indoor soccer pitch (field), crowded with yellow, single person tents.
to be continued...