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.

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.

FullSizeRender
FullSizeRender

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...