The Proof That Even Slaughterers Can Become Pop Stars Today

By Laura Ewert | WELT Iconist | Berlin | August 2017 | © WorldN24 GmbH. All rights reserved.

The modern butcher blogs and goes on educational journey

At least as beautiful as the meat products from his hands: The blogging butcher Jack Matusek

At least as beautiful as the meat products from his hands: The blogging butcher Jack Matusek

(Translated from Deutsch)

The butcher is often thick in movies, a bit angry. Sometimes bald. Chabrol rather thick-haired. He is wearing a white apron or white rubber boots and has reddened skin. He saws animals apart and leaves them on large hooks through the slaughterhouse. A place for psychotherapists. Battles are not nice.

Jack Matusek is beautiful. He is wearing a cowboy hat, long brown hair, sometimes green cowboy boots, sometimes a jeans shirt. A soft face. There are many photos of him, because he is a blogging butcher, in English, it sounds as nice as it looks: blogging butcher. He has large pieces of meat in his hand, he shows swine-ear terrines, or how to rouse a whole animal. On his "Raw Republic Meats" page, he writes about his travels, where he wants to learn everything about the craft. The 26-year-old is the proof that even slaughterers can become pop stars today - it helps of course if they look like this.

The slaughterer's new star potential is well explained by the rules of modern gourmets, who eat his bread only artisan and carrots grow blue or crooked. For him, food must be fresh, easily prepared with effort, best self-cultivated. And, of course, ethically correct. This is a tedious business, particularly in meat. One that moves the minds tremendously, in the face of animal protection, in which cow eyes look sadly from truck slits. In the case of conscious eaters, it is, therefore, a good idea to try to find out whether you can kill your food yourself (see the book "Eating Animals"), or at least making a few sausages yourself.

This explains why the butcher is so interested.

The humble craft of the butcher is definitely coming - worldwide”, says Jack Matusek, who has found his model in Italy. ”I’ve seen videos of Dario Cecchini cutting meat, while he heard AC / DC .  I was excited. Then I understood that it was more than cutting meat. It was art.

Traveling around the world all over the world

This craftsmanship charmed Matusek. He is a Texan, seventh generation.

If I could wear my hat in the bed, I would do it, he says.

Texas is known for one of the most important economic sectors in the country, the cattle breeding. In 2011 the US produced more than one billion kilos of beef . "I grew up on a ranch. As a child, I enjoyed playing in the kitchen and refined my childish cooking skills, says Matussek. Combining cooking and cattle seemed to me a suitable idea."

At first, he studied history and business administration, where he also developed a business plan for a delicacy butchery. This idea grew more and more in him. "So I canceled the job offers after my graduation and decided to learn everything about the butcher's trade." That was 2015. Since then, he has been on an educational journey with regard to meat.

Jack Matusek first researched, wrote e-mails, and asked at various companies if he could learn from them. He enrolled at the best Fleischer school in the USA, Fleishers Craft Butchery in Brooklyn, New York. Because there was no free place for him, he worked in the next slaughterhouse to learn the basics.

At the same time, he began writing his blog. "I wanted to create a way to teach people about good meat with recipes and video tutorials." That's how you see how he cooks his steak. Directly in the fire. He calls it "Dirty Steak", and the video, in which he explains that you have to leave it four minutes per side in the fire to enjoy it "medium rare" is underlined with action music.

Finally, he moved to Europe. "If you want to learn to surf, go to California, if you want to learn something about sausage, go to France," he had read somewhere. So he sold his car, grabbed his backpack and went to France together with a cowboy hat and a good finish.


Learn from the best butcher

There he worked at the slaughterhouse, on a farm, in a restaurant, ate a lot and learned a lot about French sausages. He spent his 25th birthday at the "Le St. James", a Michelin-starred restaurant in Bordeaux.

Then he went on to Panzano in the Chianti, where he worked with his hero Dario Cecchini, the most famous butcher of Italy. Bill Buford, a New York journalist, was already working as a butcher's assistant. Cecchini sells the self-cut meat in his restaurant "Officina della Bistecca" (Italian for steak workshop). 

Matusek then went to France again. In the Gascogne, he was introduced to the secret of national sausage specialties such as Pâté de Tête. He learned how to make the boneless ham Noix de Jambon from a pig's leg, and that any excess blood can cause the meat to rot during drying.

He also studied in Peru, Argentina, and Mexico. "Each country has its own style, which depends above all on local products. But also the climate and the weather influence the way of preparation and storage." A bit like the wine. The Germans, he says, are very exact at slaughter. They would hardly leave meat on the bone. The French cut rather elegantly.

Jack Matusek:  "What did the animal eat, how did it live, how was it slaughtered - all that counts for the taste"

Jack Matusek: "What did the animal eat, how did it live, how was it slaughtered - all that counts for the taste"

Like a cook, a butcher always has his knives, he recommends that of F. Dick. Matusek's favorite sausage specialty is the Italian Coppa of the Schweinenacken. And he loves Hanger steak, the tail of a long bison loin. He likes to work, the boy from the cattle country, but now with pig. "I just know the most about it now." And his favorite vegetable? This is the potato: "So versatile!" The best sausage is made from fresh ingredients, he says. Naturally. He is enthusiastic about Chorizo: "With different types of peppers, smoked, spicy or bittersweet." In addition, only meat from animals, which had grown well. 

What did it eat, how it lived, how it was slaughtered - all that counts ultimately for the taste.

With extreme vegetarians , he had so far no problems. "Vegetarians love the welfare of the animals, just like me. Animals have to live a happy life, and they have a right to pain-free and decent slaughter. "


Battles, Blogging, and Travel

Matusek is currently working in Denmark, where he is working for a few months. At the end of August, he will come to Germany and look at some pig farms and abattoirs. For the future, he has nothing less than to produce the best sausage specialties in the world. For this, he has to found a company in which he can control everything - from the breeding of the animals through their rearing to their slaughter. "I hope I will return to my ranch in Texas and build an ethically correct slaughter house, with pig farming. And a school for the butchers."

In the meantime, he wants to travel further, to continue writing, to continue learning, to continue, as in Copenhagen at the annual "Butcher's Manifesto Summit". There meet Fleischer from all over the world, to formulate goals for the craft and to exchange ideas about what the world's foodie now calls charcuterie : Superstar meat products.

Creating the Manifesto

This is the last of a 3-part series.  You can catch up by reading Road Trippin' Across Europe (Prolog), Origins - part 1, and Meating Fellow Revolutionaries, part 2. 

We were up early the next morning and ready to begin the formulation of the Manifesto. Michael had outlined five key points he wanted to touch on in our mission statement:

  • Tradition
  • Quality
  • Education
  • Craft
  • People

For each of these subjects, Michael had assigned a speaker who would lead the discussion for 15-20 minutes after which we would begin a group discussion. All the speakers were experts in their respected fields.

TRADITIONS:

The “traditions” segment was lead Henning Wiesinger, owner of Steensgaard Farms, a Danish nose-to-tail farm, slaughter facility, and butcher shop.

They do it all under one roof, from “seed to sausage”.

He discussed how the connection between the farmer and butcher has become lost, but fortunately, Steensgaard has been instrumental in preserving this traditional method of butchery.  The unique aspect of Steensgaard is their method and ideology of harvesting. Their animals aren't transported to a distant slaughterhouse - they are harvested right on the farm using a state of the art harvest facility.  It is the farmers who know the animals and lead them to the slaughterhouse where they go in a special enclosure until they are slaughtered. This ensures the lowest possible stress levels to the animals. Once slaughtered, the carcasses are immediately hung up and broken down while still warm, ensuring a quality product.  It also provides close cooperation between the farmer and butcher by creating opportunities for them to work together on meat quality and product development.

After Henning finished, we came together as a whole and tried to outline a statement on traditions.

We honor the valuable traditions of butchery.

It might seem very simple, but you have no idea how much discussion and thought went into that sentence.

QUALITY:

Adam Danforth, a James Beard award-winning author and butcher from Oregon then spoke on the topic of quality. Adam is an advocate for consuming older animals – these animals have more time to develop complex flavor in their meat. He also emphasizes flavor over texture, while the rest of the world buys the exact opposite. This discussion then led into another concerning the long-term sustainability of meat. The earth cannot support 7 billion people who eat meat every day. Adam's solution: eat less, but better meat.

Again, we converged for group discussion. The main point in this session was ensuring that superior quality was maintained through the whole process, from seed to sausage.

We insist on transparent and honest meat.

 EDUCATION:

Michael lacked a speaker for his point on education. Moved by my non-traditional path to butchery, he asked me if I would be willing to speak on the subject the night before.

Me?

I was the youngest butcher there and had little experience compared to the old guys who were born with blood stained knives in their hands.

But I wasn’t going to turn an opportunity like this down.

After a quick lunch break consisting of some incredible beef cheek tacos, it was my turn.

I’ve done a lot of public speaking in my life. I even spent a lot of time acting as a kid and I’ve got two state titles to prove it. But, this was different. This was my career.

I’m not going to lie, I was nervous.

After a quick prayer, I took my place at the head of the room and began to tell my story: The revelation in my Entrepreneurship class at TCU, the slaughterhouse down in South Texas, selling my car to pay for a three-month apprenticeship at Fleishers in NYC, as well as my time in France and Italy.

The discussion that followed centered around setting up a cost-free international apprenticeship program among the butchers involved in the manifesto, with me as the example and guinea pig.

We promote the exchange of knowledge and expertise.

CRAFT:

Dominique Chapolard and Kate Hill handled “Craft.” While Kate talked about the Chapolard system and butchery in France, Dominique went to work on a half carcass, demonstrating his skills. Many butchers hadn’t seen a carcass broken-down with this method before.

We represent a craft that is the joyful expression of tradition and innovation.

PEOPLE:

Olga Graf and Akina Kai, two design thinkers from Berlin, were charged with helping these butchers think “outside the box.” They led a discussion revolving around the interactions between butchers and consumers.

We lead the conversation about responsible consumption of meat.

After Kate and Adam had tweaked the wording a bit, the Manifesto was ready to sign.

One by one, we were called to sign the document. A roar of applause filled the hall as Michael, the last to sign, finished his signature.

This was the first step in the organized meat revolution. As a craft, we have grown tired of the unethical practices and inferior products from large industrial meat companies. We have set in place guidelines by which we can organize behind.

Yes, it probably didn’t seem like much to you as a reader; however there was a lot of thought and conversation behind those five lines.

I’m sure they will be modified and changed at the next summit, but until then, it’s a start.

After a long day of discussion, carts of beer were rolled in. Everyone started breaking out his or her products for sampling.

Keeping It Under My Hat

Last week marked one year since a TCU professor in an entrepreneurship class changed my life. That, plus a tiny tap from a sledgehammer wielded by the Big Guy upstairs is what finally got my attention and toppled my corporate career before it ever had a chance to start. Then and there, I determined to trade my Brooks Bros suit for a butcher’s apron and I promised myself I was going to be the best butcher I could be.

Not to sound haughty or arrogant, but if a guy is going to dream, he better dream big, right?

 

To be the best would mean I had to go back to square one to learn the craft. It meant tracking down the foremost butchers in the world and learning directly from them. Not only did I need to learn the lost art of butchery but also I needed to understand nose to tail philosophies, sustainable and humane practices, as well as the ubiquitous knife skills for primal and sub-primal cuts.

To keep myself focused and on track, I decided to keep my goals close to me. I wanted to look at them every day, especially on days when things weren’t going so well. I decided to list my goals and to keep them under my hat. Literally, inside my old Stetson, I have written:

  • Brooklyn, New York( This represents Fleisher's Butcher School and the first leg of my journey)
  • Gascony, France(The 2nd leg of my journey to study charcuterie with the masterful, Kate Hill)
  • Panzano, Italy(An apprenticeship with 8th generation butcher, Dario Cechini - the rock star among butchers)
  • Lima, Peru(An apprenticeship with Renzo Garibaldi – the Meat Prophet of Peru)
  • Patagonia(To learn the art of outdoor, Argentinian cooking from one of the world’s great chefs, Francis Mallmann)
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Then at the very center of the crown, I added an appropriate scripture for my journey:

It is written, “ Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word from the mouth of God.

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Perfect, don’t you think?

Endnote: I'm not certain if any or all of these masters will even take me on as an apprentice, but I'm going to give it a shot knowing God has everything under control. I've trusted Him this far and I know He's not going to leave me hanging out on a limb.  My work is to be patient and trust in His timing.

I am so blessed to be able to follow my dreams, none of which would be possible without the loving support of my family, so please follow along here at rawrepublicmeats.com or through my Instagram or Facebook sites.

I don’t speak a word of French or Italian so I’m sure this might be interesting at best!

Photo credit: Mitchell Franz Photo

This ‘ol Gal is Smoking Hot

It’s a damn good feeling to be back in the Lone Star state. For the past few weeks, I’ve been at home resting up and sampling some good eats. I’ve gotten more than a few dinner requests from the Family and I’m beginning to think they have forgotten that my time in New York was spent in a meat cooler, not a kitchen.

Whatever. I love to get in the kitchen, throw on some jams, and make something special.

 

Since I’ve been home, I’ve learned to make tamales and I tied and prepared a huge rib roast for the Family Christmas dinner; however I was craving to experiment with things I had learned in New York. Unfortunately, I lacked a commercial kitchen and shiny appliances like I had access to at Fleishers. That meant I was going to have to find my own and on a broke butcher’s budget. After mapping out my meat quest I figured I would need the following:

  • a smoker to practice my brisket making,
  • a dehydrator to test my new jerky recipes,
  • and a curing chamber for some charcuterie experimentation.

My trip to New York wiped out my bank account, but Santa Claus came through with a couple of Benji’s in my stocking. I just had to decide which one of the three pieces of equipment to invest in. I only had enough cash for one. The other two would have to be put on the back-burner. This was my line of thinking until I stumbled on an old, unclaimed smoker.

At first, I wasn’t sure if the ‘ol gal would work. There were rust holes in the bottom, the grill had come detached, and the pipe stack that once rose from the pit had been severed. Her thermometer had definitely seen better days. Its glass cover was shattered and the needle registered a perpetual 185°.

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All and all, not insurmountable for an old Boy Scout. A quick trip to Walmart for a freestanding oven thermometer and a few twists of wire to get the grill back on, I had the ‘ol gal back on her feet. Now to give her a test run.

On the actual brisket, I figured I couldn’t go wrong. Chef Jason and I had thrown one in the electric smoker in New York and it turned out awesome – no work and great meat with an amazing bark. Since my smoker didn’t exactly stack up to that commercial one, I would have to keep a careful watch over this brisket the entire time it cooked. The main chamber temperature needed to hover around 225° and stay as smoke-filled as possible.

Pulling an all-nighter would require some help. Luckily, the fridge was stocked with Shiner Bock and my brother was home for Christmas break.   He willingly volunteered as soon as I uttered the word “fire.”

We’ve been pyro-maniacs since birth.

The new recruit and I made our way to the local meat market where we commandeered an 15lb. USDA select brisket. Yeah, it wasn’t the 100% grass-fed brisket I was use to working with in New York, but it would do.

After a good thirty minutes of hand-grinding seasonings, I laid down a heavy coat of salt and pepper over the meat.

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In the meantime, Sam had started a fire in the smoke chamber and once he had a good bed of coals and the oven thermometer read 225°, we placed the brisket in the main chamber.

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Pit masters apply wood chips to create a large amount of smoke without all the heat of a large fire. I applied hickory wood chips every 10-15 minutes throughout the night.

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The next morning, the meat thermometer read 190° when I placed it into the center of the brisket. I pulled the brisket from the hand-me-down smoker and let it set.

The ‘ol gal had done good. The bark was thick, dark and glistening. The smoke ring was a lovely ombre red.

After 30 minutes of resting, I sliced and shared.

Sweet victory!

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Feedback:

  1. Aunt Hedy thought it was a bit peppery. It might have been from all the fresh cracked pepper I used.
  2. Mom thought the meat could have been more tender, but the flavor was spot on.
  3. Note to self: ALWAYS invest in good meat. If you want a great end product, you have to use great ingredients.

Packin' Pork

All I have been talking about for the last three months is how good the pasture-raised pork is from Fleishers.

  • How it tastes like pork is suppose to taste.
  • How breeders are breeding the fat back in after the anti-fat stigma of the 70s.
  • How modern farmers are raising these animals on open range and supplementing their diets with tubers and apples.

So the family mandate was in. They wanted me to put up or shut up. Mom had scheduled a tamale making class for when I got home so I thought it would be perfect timing if I packed some pork back to Texas for Christmas tamales. Just one small problem, well, actually one big problem, how was I going to get all of my belongings and the pork packed in my suitcase?

I never got rid of the boxes I originally shipped my stuff up to New York in. They actually turned out to be multi-purpose, standing in as chest-of-drawers, a nightstand and a dining table. So flipping the boxes upright, I crammed in all of my earthly processions: espresso machine, cook books, cutting boards, boots and bedding and shipped them back to Texas via the neighborhood UPS store. That left me with my carry-on for the plane and one 55lb. box of pork as checked baggage.

Let me pause here to itemize the contents of my checked baggage: two 13 lb. Boston butts, four Frenched pork chops cut 1” thick, and one large hog’s head perfect for tamales.

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They say a picture is worth a thousand words so I wish I had one to show you here, but I don’t. Just try to picture this scene in your head if you will:

I sauntered up to LaGuardia’s Southwest Airlines check-in and presented my documents for boarding. I then hoisted my box of pork onto the luggage scales and waited for my baggage claim check. It was at this point that Miss LaGuardia informed me that I must use "Southwest Airline approved boxes" for my belongings. Ok, no problem. So there on the spot I begin to unpack and transfer my pork to the approved shipping box.

Lets just say that Miss LaGuardia’s eyes moved to “alert” status when the lovely pink chops surfaced. By the time I was transferring the hog’s head, she was on full "Silence of the Lambs” alert. But the best part was when I reached down and grabbed my knife roll, looked up at her and said,

Ma'am, I’m a butcher and I am going to pull out my knives now.

I just wanted to let you know.

After a gasp then a pregnant pause, her relieved expression showed she now comprehended that indeed I was not Hannibal Lector, but an actual butcher. With the color returning to her face, Miss LaGuardia waved off security and finally handed me my baggage claim check. (Something tells me she is going to let the next guy in line slide with his cardboard boxes.)

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My flight from LaGuardia to Chicago was easy, but the last leg into Austin seemed like it would never end. I was more than ready to be home, so I pre-maturely unbuckled “before the plane had come to a full and complete stop.” I grabbed my carry-on and quickly located my pork box at baggage claim. As I went to the outside curb for pick up, I spotted the most beautiful girl I have ever seen. There she was. Waiting curbside for me. Black hair, black eyes and fluorescent hunting collar. I dropped everything as my Remi ran to me for a good ear scratchin’ and face lick.

Home, sweet home.

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Final Note: I’m back in Texas for a bit to re-group and plan my next leg of my carnivorous journey. In the meantime, I will be holding some jerky and sausage making classes. If you are interested, send me a message in the “contact me” section.

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and eats well this holiday season. I sure will!