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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Meating Fellow Revolutionaries

This is the second of a three-part series… Catch up by reading Road Trippin’ Across Europe  and Manifesto Origins.

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?


The Cold War era bomb shelter behind Folkets Madhus.

The Cold War era bomb shelter behind Folkets Madhus.

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 welcoming those from close and afar.

Michael welcoming those from close and afar.

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.

Some good Texas BBQ sauce coming to a boil.

Some good Texas BBQ sauce coming to a boil.

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.

French pâtés ready to hit the oven.

French pâtés ready to hit the oven.

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.

Gustav going to work on the pork belly

Gustav going to work on the pork belly

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!

John Ratliff of Ends Meat, Brooklyn, NY

John Ratliff of Ends Meat, Brooklyn, NY

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.

It's not the Ritz, it's the Yellow Tents
It's not the Ritz, it's the Yellow Tents

to be continued...

Je N'ai Plus Faim

Life really does revolve around food in Gascony. Every day from noon to two, the small town of Nerac shuts down and like every other French village, goes really hard at lunchtime – five courses hard. The courses consist of:

  • aperitifs and hors d’oeuvres,
  • an entrée,
  • a salad,
  • cheese,
  • and a dessert, plus wine and coffee.
Tomatoes and Coppa.

Tomatoes and Coppa.

Dominique and his wife Christiane are no different. We'd usually wrap up our morning work and start cleaning the processing facility around 11:45. Once it was all scrubbed, I’d pile into Dominique’s car and we would take a short drive down the road to his house where Christiane awaited us.

Let me point something out here – Christiane worked with us in the morning, cutting carcasses, cooking pates, and making sausages. She would sneak out maybe 15 minutes ahead of us and by the time we reached the kitchen table, she always had an incredible French lunch prepared. As Dominique helped her with the final touches, I always set the table - in the French manner, of course.

Tomatoes, a staple of the French diet.

Tomatoes, a staple of the French diet.

And then we would feast!

Duck breast cooked by Dominique for lunch one day.

Duck breast cooked by Dominique for lunch one day.

I’ve never eaten like I have in France. Every meal, I absolutely gorged myself into a food-induced coma. Christiane was like a French mother – she kept scooping food onto my plate. I finally had to learn how to say,

'I am not hungry anymore' in French – Je n’ai plus faim.

Goat cheese from the farmer just down the road.

Goat cheese from the farmer just down the road.

Luckily, there was always a pot of coffee at the end of every meal to get me back on my feet and back to the facility.

My favorite part of the Chapolard lunches was the company. All throughout the meal and an hour afterward, Dominique, Christiane, and I would talk.  We had some amazing exchanges. Their English was much better than my French, so throughout our conversations, I constantly used Google Translate and while Dominique kept his French to English dictionary close at hand. They taught me about French culture and life as well as valuable lessons and tips for my future butcher shop.

In return, I tried my best to describe the Texan way of life, my family, and our ranch. The concept of a "ranch" was very difficult for Dominique to comprehend.  We settled on the concept of a "large farm" just for cattle. He will get to see it first hand this January when he comes to visit.  I hope he brings Christiane in his suitcase!

I know Dominique and Christiane enjoyed these lunch conversations too. One of the most memorable quotes for me came from Dominique after a long discussion. He had some difficulty translating it at first, so he relayed it to Christiane and she began,

“Fifty percent of what Dominique sells is meat…”

“No, No.” Dominique interrupted.

“Twenty percent of what I sell is meat. Eighty percent is relationships.”

I'm not sure how he settled on that ratio, but he is absolutely right. Relationships are important. I will forever remember these meaningful conversations and these incredible people.

Thank you, Dom & Christiane.

Doin' It Like Dario

This wasn’t my first gig in the restaurant industry so I acclimated rather quickly at Officina Della Bistecca, Dario Cecchini’s famed steakhouse. By the end of the second week, I had the system down.  My days were filled with serving patrons, flippin’ burgers, or washing what seemed to be an endless pit of plates, wine glasses, and silverware. On a good day, I would make money in tips. Most of the time, that meant two or three Euros, but sometimes we would have gracious patrons and I would stroll home with fifteen Euros in my pocket and be happier than a blind squirrel who had just found an acorn. With a room and meals provided by Dario, I was living pretty cheap in Italy.  Life was good.

One morning as I made my way through the macelleria to the restaurant, Riccardo stopped me. That day, he was top dog and manning the butcher counter since Dario was in Chicago for a culinary television gig.

My friend, today, you do the presentation at Officina like Dario.

Then he added,

In Italian.

This was an extraordinary honor. During every service at Officina Della Bistecca, Dario announces his presence with a series of blasts from his brass, Italian horn. This is the cue for all the employees to parade out of the kitchen and assume their place behind the main presentation table. With two huge porterhouses elevated above his head, Dario welcomes his guests and introduces his staff. Then, in his booming voice, he presents the bisteccas to his patrons.


I had first seen this presentation on YouTube, back in college when I was working on my butcher shop business proposal for my entrepreneurial class.  Each time Dario picks up those steaks for the presentation, his passion for his trade radiates and fills the room. Even after seeing it countless times, I still find myself getting goosebumps. It’s always one hell of a show.

As soon as Riccardo uttered the words, “in Italian”, I went into a state of panic. My Italian was still atrocious. I’m not going to lie – I tried to get my debut pushed back to the dinner service so I would have a little extra time to practice. Then Riccardo handed me a sheet of paper where he had hand written the spiel and reassured me that I would do fine.

Go practice – You have one hour.

I hate being unprepared.

Practicing behind Officina Della Bistecca

Practicing behind Officina Della Bistecca

I ran upstairs and grabbed Zac, my roommate and fellow stagista, and headed for the parking lot. I needed space to practice. Zac, who is half American, proved useful in helping me memorize the Italian verbiage. After what seemed like a split second, they called for me.

As I made my way through the parking lot towards the restaurant, Samu and Orlando drove up. I gave them the spiel, hoping the last rehearsal would do me good. Orlando rolled his eyes and buried his face in his hands.

Not very reassuring.

Word must have spread that the Texan was doing the presentation because almost as many employees as patrons were in attendance. I walked up to the butcher’s block, grabbed the two huge steaks, and began….

Trouble in Paradise

For a week, I was Dario’s lone stagista, living in a meat cutting paradise and absolutely loving it. I cut, I cleaned, and I helped in any way possible. I assumed Dario was pleased with my work because he invited me to stay for another three weeks.

An entire month with the greatest butcher in the world?


Life doesn’t get much better.

But then trouble in paradise began with a flood of new stagistas.

The first additional stagista arrived unannounced. Dario, genuinely one of the most generous people in this world, offered him an apprenticeship thinking he had plenty of openings. However, on the first morning of his staging, I could tell something was up. Even though my Italian was still in its infancy, I detected something was amiss by the way Dario was talking with his head butcher. He seemed a bit flummoxed. We were told not to follow when Dario and his right-hand man excused themselves to the dining room.

Strange, but I thought little of it at the time.

When Jadava appeared in the doorway and asked us to follow him, I still thought nothing of it. However when we walked into the dining room and saw everyone seated around a table, I knew something was up. Dario began in Italian and Riccardo, translated after each line.

I didn’t need any translation. I realized what was happening.

Dario had just been informed of two additional French stagistas scheduled to be arriving the next day. He said they had been in contact for over a year and had their places reserved for some time. His butchers were only able to teach a maximum of two apprentices at a time. Basically, we were out.

Being the gracious man he is, Dario offered to let us remain in the stagista apartment for a week until we could make travel arrangements.

My heart sank. I mean really, I wanted to cry.

I spent the rest of the day working with Riccardo. I tried to shake it off, but Riccardo could see my pain. He knew I had been in contact with Dario for over a year in an attempt to learn from the master. He knew Dario was my idol so he went to battle for me.

That afternoon, Riccardo brought me the news: I could stay the full time and work at the restaurant. The “Frenchies” would only be staging for two weeks and after that, I could get back to cutting meat at the celle. The other apprentice wasn’t as fortunate – within a few days, he left for Florence in search of work.

And so I landed in the kitchen at Officina Della Bistecca – cooking, serving, and washing a shit-ton of dishes, but ever determined to prove my worth to Dario. As I slaved in the dish pit or over a grease-filled burger pan, I was constantly reminded a quote I learned from my Phi Gam brothers back at Texas Christian:

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not: unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

-Calvin Coolidge

I know all about persistence. It took me twelve emails over the course of twelve months to get to Panzano, Italy. Now that I was here, I wasn’t going down easy.

I am forever grateful to my good friend, Riccardo. Not only did he go to bat for me, he took me in and made me feel welcome.