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.

Road Trippin' Across Europe

During my apprenticeship in France, Kate began talking about an upcoming international meat summit. Michael Museth of Folkets Madhus was the organizer and had scheduled an event for late August, in Copenhagen. Kate and Dom were to speak and several international butchers would be in attendance.  So like a pup begging for treats, I hounded Kate until she asked the organizer if I could tag along.

Luckily for me, he agreed.


About a week before the trip, Kate and I were discussing our plans. She was to fly into Copenhagen.  I had planned to ride the train and catch up with her there, but somewhere along the way we started talking about a road trip. Two days later, coincidentally on my birthday, I received an email from Kate titled “Happy Birthday” with our road trip route included.

The best birthday present!

DAY 1: The morning of our departure, I arrived at Camont as the sun was coming up.  I had rented a VW Polo for the trip and had it packed with my travel bag and knives.  Kate tossed hers in with mine and I was delighted when she added a hamper full of French charcuterie. Then off we went, road-trippin' to a meat summit in Copenhagen.

The sun had just climbed above the treetops as we hooped into the car.

The sun had just climbed above the treetops as we hooped into the car.

Kate and I talked for hours, only stopping for diesel and the occasional pastry or sandwich. We discussed at great length my future plans for a craft butcher shop in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. She gave me invaluable advice gleaned from her years in the culinary world and her travels around the globe. As the day drug on, she recounted tales from some of these travels – The time she drove an old army flatbed truck across Africa or guided lavish tours through the greatest wine regions and restaurants of France.

She really has done it all.

In the late afternoon, we crossed the border into Germany – near Stuttgart. Kate and I both pondered on the whereabouts of the Autobahn: the famed German motorway of unrestricted speed limits. Never the less, the highway we were on was amply populated with BMWs, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsches proving that Stuttgart was indeed the automobile cradle of the world. Just as the sun set, we hit Frankfurt where we planned to stay the night with one of Kate’s former students.

DAY 2 & TONY: Tony welcomed us into his home where German beer and meat are not in short supply. Kate beckoned for the Noix de Jambon, so I cut into one to allow Tony to sample our wares. In return, he produced an Iberian Coppa he had preserved.

Wow, people say that fat melts in your mouth, well this fat really did!

It was some of the best tasting charcuterie I’d ever had the opportunity to try.

Iberico Coppa

Iberico Coppa

As it turned out, Tony was quite the weekend charcuterie warrior – his kitchen was stocked with various cured meats, fermented vegetables, and a plethora of top-notch kitchen gear. He even had a Jambon Bayonne (dried pork ham) in one of his cabinets.

Loaf style bologna

Loaf style bologna

Cold cuts for breakfast - its a German thing.

Cold cuts for breakfast - its a German thing.

The next morning, after a breakfast of cold cuts provided by our host, we got back on the Autobahn.

Yeah, Tony laughed when we asked where it was. He informed us that we had been driving on the Autobahn the entire day before.

Around midday, we pulled into a small German village nestled next to some heavily wooded hills and promptly located the local butcher shop. After chatting with the monger and inquiring about a number of  his offerings, we made our purchases, including freshly baked bread.

The butcher shop of a small German town.

The butcher shop of a small German town.

The perfect spot for a picnic.

The perfect spot for a picnic.

Towers in Lubeck

Towers in Lubeck

Finding the perfect picnic spot was not hard.  Everything looked like the Von Trapps might skip into at any moment. That night we pulled into Lubeck and had one last good sleep in a hotel before the meat summit. 

DAY 3: The smell of the sea filled our nostrils the next morning as we boarded the ferry for Denmark and crossed the Femer Baelt.

Leaving the German mainland and headed for Denmark!

Leaving the German mainland and headed for Denmark!

Finally, a couple of hours later, the VW Polo pulled into a parking lot marked Folkets Madhus . 

After 1,256 miles and 25 hours in the car, we had arrived!


Vide Greniers: the French Garage Sale

vide-greniers: a popular gathering at which individuals expose items that they no longer use, in order to dispose of it in the selling to visitors. Also known as garage sales, fire sales, and flea markets. 

Early on in my stay in the Gascon countryside, I heard Maurine talk of her weekend trips to the vide-greniers. She talked about all the fabulous French antiques that each one held and extended an invitation to me to join her and her party for the upcoming weekend's treasure hunt. Unfortunately, I declined due to a previously planned trip to the beach but asked for a rain check instead. In passing, I mentioned I was searching for some really cool vintage butcher’s equipment, especially cleavers, that I could use to decorate my shop. She told me she would keep her eyes peeled for me.

Processed with Snapseed.
Processed with Snapseed.

That very next Sunday, on the way to the beach, I got a text from Maurine. In it, was a picture of an old mounted sharpening wheel ... $25!

That was it.  I had come down with the “Vide Grenier Fever.”

Every Sunday after that, we woke up early and headed off to whichever nearby town was hosting the vide-greniers for the weekend. It always changed and was never in the same place.

Cleavers from an antique market in Nerac.

Cleavers from an antique market in Nerac.

Over the course of a month, I racked up a respectable vintage cleaver collection. I also picked up a few French hat racks for my mother, who had just designed a new hat collection.

Yes, insert shamelsess plug here.

My last “Vide-Grenier Sunday” was very special. Our hunting party consisting of Maurine, Bill, Taff, and I, traveled to the picturesque city of Lectoure. Perched atop a large hill, it provided not only a magnificent view but also a cache of vintage treasures. Sometimes, you find vide-greniers full of junk - after all, they are garage sales, but luckily this was not one of those markets. I ended up procuring two more cleavers for my collection from a booth at the train depot.

One ended up being the best to date.

The old hospital in Lectoure that was turned into a permanent antique mall.

The old hospital in Lectoure that was turned into a permanent antique mall.

From the depot, we headed up the hill into town with our Vide-Grenier Fever peaked. Ironically, there along the main street was a disused hospital that had been converted into an antique mall.

I can't think of a more perfect location for bargain hunters with Vide-grenier Fever than in an old, abandoned hospital.

Another good haul of cleavers.

Another good haul of cleavers.

Unfortunately, prices at the Lectoure Antique Market were a bit high and we left empty handed.

On our way back home to Nerac, Maurine wanted to take a different route so we swung through Fourcés, another small French village with a Sunday vide-grenier.  The Fourcés Antique Market had a diverse mix of items including a ton of silverware, walking canes with concealed sabers, and even a tractor pull.  Somewhere between rummaging between spoons and forks, I stumbled on my greatest find of all the vide-greniers in France – a massive refurbished German cleaver with a two-foot long handle.

This baby was built for some heavy duty splitting!

After a few minutes of haggling with the owner, I separated him from the clever for thirty Euros – an absolute steal.