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)

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.


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 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

Earth Oven Tragedy

I’m not much of a recipe person. Instead of teaspoons and tablespoons, my measurement system relies heavily on “dashes of this” or “hints of that.” I am comfortable with this system because it usually doesn’t fail me. In this case, this system completely failed me. In this case, I am Mayhem from the All State commercials, wanting to cut down a large tree. I watched two minutes of a 9-minute, DIY, meat pit video then went and "rented the biggest chainsaw I could find".

Yeah, it only gets worse from here, but hopefully someone will read this and propel himself to give it a better shot.


In the last weeks before I departed for New York, I caught wind of a new Netflix series entitled “Chef’s Table.” If you love food, I highly recommend you checking out this series. I absolutely love the show. Can’t wait for Season 2. My favorite episode depicted the life of the famous Argentinean chef, Francis Mallman. He spends most his time cooking outdoors in rural Patagonia where he also owns his own island

Yeah, crazy right?

In the Mallman episode, Francis and his band of gypsies-chefs constructed a meat pit by digging a hole in the ground, building a fire, wrapping some food up in leaves, and then burying it all in the hole. This style of cooking is known as “Curanto” in Patagonia. Mallman explained people all over the world have been cooking in pits or "earth ovens"  for over 12,000 years. He also said the taste of the meat and vegetables from a pit were amazing… and he also mentioned something about,

“...potatoes you could suck through a straw.”

If people 12,000 years ago were doing pits and making all this amazing food like "potatoes that you can suck through a straw", then I sure as hell should be able to do the same now in the 21st century... I just really wanted some of those potatoes.

Again, I recruited my younger brother, Sam, who was still home on Christmas break. Compared to Mallman’s band of gypsy-chefs, we were a little outmanned and inexperienced, but hey, I had watched an entire two minutes of the nine-minute, DIY video.

After trip to the local meat market, we had all the food staples we would need: 1 Boston butt (commercially raised), half dozen potatoes, half dozen yams, and four onions. I had also thawed out the second and last Boston butt from New York. (remember it was free-range pork) Comparing the two pork butts yielded a large difference, not only in price per pound, but also in appearance. The meat pit would be my personal test to see which pork really was the best.

Sam and I decided to make the process simple and thought we could use the family fire pit out on the patio. It is a nice circular pit, edged in Texas limestone and situated just perfectly to watch college bowl games and tend the fire simultaneously. We simply needed it to be a bit deeper to bury the meat and veggies ala Mallman. So we start digging and about 12 inches into it we hit a PVC pipe that services the swimming pool.

What knucklehead put a PVC pipe underneath a fire pit?

Backup plan in action, we relocated the pit to Nana’s raised and currently dormant, garden. We dug and dug, finally getting a nice 3-foot deep pit.


Now we would need something large to cover up the cavity. I quickly recycled some corrugated tin panels from an old barn and used some Boy Scout ingenuity to cut them to fit. The necessary tools were unavailable.


Next, we laid down some lava rock then got a nice sized fire going. While we waited for our bed of coals to form, I threw some salt and pepper on the vegetables and both Boston butts. Then per the video’s instructions, I wrapped everything individually in foil, then again in burlap. Some craft wire held the packages together and created a nice handle for lifting and moving the bundles while hot.


Late that night, after we had burned all of our wood and had some nice smoldering coals in the pit, we spread the rest of the lava rocks on top.Next we rounded up all of our “pit parcels” and doused the outer burlap wrappings with water. The water-soaked burlap would eventually create steam inside pit and slow cook the meat and vegetables over the next 12 hours.


This is where things got screwy. We set the parcels upon the lava rocks and immediately covered everything with dirt, followed with the tin cover.

You probably think I’m a dumbass. I kind of thought I was too for a bit. You can imagine my disappointment the next day around noon. With the entire family standing around the pit anticipating lunch and straw-sucking potatoes, I dug everything up to find it under cooked. The dirt had completely extinguished our coals. The gathering of family, once ready to feast, now trickled back indoors to grab their car keys and head into town for lunch.

Man, I screwed up. But was I going to squander this precious pork? Absolutely not. I was gonna give it another shot.

I wasted no time getting a second fire going. A little gasoline never hurt a meat pit, right? It does burn hair, though. After careful inspection in the mirror that night, I found that I had singed not one, but both sides of my head.

Like I said, we really are pyro maniacs.

Late that night, we had a decent amount of coals. We probably needed more, but I was rushing this second attempt so I could at least have Sunday lunch ready when the Family got back from church the next day. Again, we wrapped everything up, soaked it, and put it back on the coals. Again, we covered the mouth of the pit with 3 tin panels, but this time covered the panels with dirt. This looked right. Small holes in the tin allowed steam to roll out all night.

The next morning, the Family gathered for lunch.



  • Pork looked beautiful, but my seasoning was really weak.
  • The New York pork had  good flavor, but lacked seasoning as I mentioned above. It quickly got shredded and combined with some salt and brown sugar for lunchtime pulled pork sandwiches.
  • Nobody touched the Texas pork. But the Sisters sure did love the flavor!
  • All the potatoes were overcooked. Yes, I was deprived of the potatoes that you could suck through a straw.

Note: If you try this at home, don’t cover your meat packages and coals with dirt. The steam needs a pocket to properly cook everything.

...and hey, let me know if anyone achieves the straw-sucking potatoes.  I still want to try those.

Like Cocaine in the '80's

Continued from Part 1… Are you kidding me, Hell yeah, I’m going.

Jason, Anderson, and Josh (three butchers I work with) and Sophie, all jumped into a car and headed to North Brooklyn. The drive gave me time to get to know everyone better. As I mentioned before, Jason was a criminal defense attorney. He took a sabbatical from work two years ago and enrolled in the Fleisher’s apprenticeship. His boss told him that he would never come back to the legal world. He was right. Jason loves the stress free life and the opportunity to do something he loves. As he puts it,

"I get to cut some of the best meat, stop and drink coffee when I want, grab a few drinks when I want… stress free."

As I told him my story and sudden career turn around, he mentioned how many of his “corporate world” friends where making that same choice.

"They’re jumping into the “craft” world – opening cheese factories, butcher shops, or wineries."

Affirmation: good.

Jason Yang working on the bandsaw.

Jason Yang working on the bandsaw.

We began talking about good restaurants in the area, our favorite chefs, and other butcher - foodie related topics. We even discussed my favorite chef Francis Mallmann. (By the way, Francis, if you’re reading this, call me man. I would kill to work with you.) In that moment, in a car in Brooklyn with a bunch of butchers, I realized this was truly my element. I was finally surrounded by like-minded guys and I friggin’ loved it. New York had been so foreign to me for the past few days, but rollin’ with the Fleisher’s crew, felt like home.

So we arrive at Roberta’s Pizza in Williamsburg, which, according to Sophie, was the hipster joint that started the hipster movement that brought Williamsburg back to life. Roberta’s is so hip it doesn’t even have an outdoor sign to identify itself.

2015-09-21 18.55.41
2015-09-21 18.55.41

As we were walking in, I could tell Sophie was on Cloud 9. She was rollin’ with the craft butcher clan of which I hadn’t come to fully appreciate in its entirety. I was happy just to be along for the ride and not having to sit back at the apartment and entertain the hairless cat.

In the back party garden there was a small gathering of people. Everyone was there to celebrate the opening of Heritage Radio Network’s new website. HRN is a foodie radio station in New York, because, why not?

Have I mentioned how cool this place is?

Jason bought us a round of 6 Point Sweet Actions and we got in the food line for… pulled pork sandwiches…?

I’m so confused. I thought we were at Roberta’s Pizza.

Where’s the pizza guys…?

I mean, I’m gonna eat either way, but I’m a little disappointed that this is Roberta’s Pizza and there’s no pizza.

Then I took a bite.

Holy. Shit.

It took everything I had not to flip out over what I had just tasted. I wanted to play it cool and not show my green hand, but thankfully from the look on Jason’s face, I wasn’t the only one stunned by the amazing pork sandwich. I'd never had one with cilantro before and the house-made sauce was ridiculous.

Roberta's pulled pork sandwich with a side of Caesar salad packaged for the go
Roberta's pulled pork sandwich with a side of Caesar salad packaged for the go

We grabbed a few more brews after we finished drooling over our non-pizza and mingled with the rest of the gathering crowd. It was about this time that I started to realize how popular craft butchery was. Everyone was treating Jason like a celebrity. Not only does Jason take apprentices for three-month stints, but he also conducts intro-butchery classes on the weekends so all of his former-student/fans were pouring accolades. I commented to the Fleisher’s crew about Jason’s semi-celebrity status and how relieved I was to be surrounded by people who got this whole meat thing. The comment I got back assured me,

"You came to the right place. Butchers in Brooklyn are as big as cocaine was back in the 80’s. You guys are like rock stars."

Well okay then.

I know without a doubt, I have chosen the perfect profession. It was a long road to come to this conclusion, but God truly had his hand on me and guided me to where I am now.

I truly am blessed.