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.

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.

The Cowboy, the Expat, and the Englishman

I poked my head into the production room at the Chapolard’s farm.

Bonjour! Dominique?


One of the women making paupiettes at the metal table turned and yelled to Dominique, informing him a cowboy was here to see him. From out of the rear kitchen, he appeared, with a smile the size of his mustache. After catching up for a bit, he asked me if it was possible to start next Monday. A week to kill in the Gascony countryside?

C’est Bon. (it’s good) I replied.

“Also, is it possible for you to stay throughout August as well?” he asked.

Even better.

I knew Kate Hill, of the Kitchen-at-Camont, would need an extra hand that week – Tim Clinch, a well-traveled British photographer was at Camont to photograph some dishes for their upcoming book Food Stories from Gascony. Yearning to learn more about traditional French cuisine, I decided to spend the majority of my week there.

Every meal at Camont is so… French. The table is always set beforehand. More often than not, the table is laden with an array of cheeses, bread, water, wine, and charcuterie. Meals flow in the French manner:

  • the starter (l’entrée),
  • the main course (le plat principal),
  • cheese (le fromage),
  • dessert (le dessert),
  • some sort of digestive, usually coffee (digestif/café),
  • and of course, wine - usually Rosé
Walnut wine 

Walnut wine 

Time is taken to actually enjoy a meal and your company – you will be hard-pressed to find French people in the Gascony countryside that rush lunch.

When I arrived, Kate was putting the finishing touches on lunch. To be of use, I tried to set the table. The keyword is tried. I had yet to learn the proper French way to set a table. Luckily, Catherine was close by to teach me.

As lunch came out of the kitchen, Tim went to work with his camera and iPhone, carefully setting up his shots and paying great attention to his angles and lighting. Naturally, we started up what would be a week-long conversation about his many travels, shoots, and photography. He has some great tales and the guy has really done it all in the photography world.

Tim Clinch getting the right position.

Tim Clinch getting the right position.

Tim never misses a moment to take a picture.

Tim never misses a moment to take a picture.

After an exceptional lunch, we sprang into action. The three of us worked quite well together. Kate commanded the island counter slicing vegetables, simmering sauces, and producing the most enthralling aromas I have ever taken in. I took my place near the sink and dishwasher.

A great spot.

Here, I could knock out the dishes and peek over my shoulder every now and then to witness the magic taking place. Tim took his place at the small table in front of the island, editing photos and preparing for the next dish. When Kate would finish a dish, we all would converge on the predetermined propped, location to nail down a breathtaking photo – Tim wielding his two cameras, Kate styling the plate, and yours truly providing props and light via the massive reflector.

When it was time to shoot the côte de boeuf (ribeye), Kate put me in charge.

She trusts me with this?

Yes, she assured me, if I wanted to work with Francis Mallman, I would need to master the fire first.  Then she showed me how to construct an upside down fire in a metal wheel barrow.  Only then did she give me  instruction on how to best cook the steak. Once the wood had burned down to coals, I transferred the coals over to a small grille and plopped the côte de boeuf straight on the coals. It turned out marvelous!

My kind of grilling./

My kind of grilling./


Now everytime I stop by Camont for a meal, I assume my position next to the metal wheelbarrow, the adobe oven, and the grille. With Kate's guidance, I have learned to cook some really amazing dishes with fire.

Duck pâté serves with large capers and toast points.

Duck pâté serves with large capers and toast points.

Bacon, Kate's loyal companion, remained in the kitchen throughout the day in case any morsels fell to the ground.

Bacon, Kate's loyal companion, remained in the kitchen throughout the day in case any morsels fell to the ground.

Tim and Kate racked up some incredible food shots over the week. I was thrilled to lend a hand and be a part of it - even if in a small way.

Note: One part of Food Stories From Gascony will document the wide variety of people that pass through Kate's Kitchen at Camont. Tim thought a cowboy from Texas was interesting so he shot this:


NOTE: Looking to experience France in a similar fashion? Kate hosts a variety of culinary courses at Camont from cooking to charcuterie. Check out her website and mosey on over to France for an unparalleled  gastronomic experience.

France - Right Where I Need to Be

With vacation over and the family back across the Atlantic, I began to make my way back to France.  I wanted to dig deeper and really get a good grasp on charcuterie. Dominique Chapolard had agreed to take me on as an apprentice at his family’s organic pig farm and charcuterie production facility for a month. It was tough parting with my family.

There is nothing in Texas for you right now, my mother reminded me.

And she was right. Deep down, I think I was really just hankering for one of Lola’s breakfast tacos and a big, sweet iced-tea.

I rented a car in Toulouse with a standard transmission since automatics are twice as expensive to rent. In all my time in Austin selling cars, I never learned how to operate a vehicle with standard transmission. Now I had to learn while driving in France! Let's just say it took me 20 minutes to get out of the parking garage because I didn't know how to shift into reverse. Next,  I stalled out at two traffic lights…

Well, you get the picture.

My Volkswagen Polo that I rented in Toulouse.

My Volkswagen Polo that I rented in Toulouse.

Somehow I made it back to the Kitchen-at-Camont, the culinary retreat and home of Kate Kill. I didn’t dare pull into her driveway because I was still overcome with fear of putting the Volkswagon Polo into reverse.

As usual, Kate had a full house – the two guests of note on this occasion were Camas Davis and Tim Clinch. Camas originally took a course with Kate back in 2009 then went back to the Northeast and started the Portland Meat Collective, a hands-on meat school and community dedicated to whole animal butchery and the slow food movement. Tim is a well-traveled British photographer who now resides in Bulgaria – He and Kate were in the middle of a week-long food photo shoot for their upcoming book Food Stories from Gascony.

Kate Hill's lovely home, Camont, in the Gascon region of France.

Kate Hill's lovely home, Camont, in the Gascon region of France.

Other new faces included Dylan Joyce-Ahearne, an Irish writer who has been remodeling Kate’s barge, and Catherine Manterola, Kate’s social media wiz, foodie, and fellow Texan.

Kate's barge, which is situated on the canal just behind her house.

Kate's barge, which is situated on the canal just behind her house.

And would you believe it, the menu that day was pulled-pork tacos on fresh, homemade tortillas by Catherine? My Tex-Mex craving was filled!

Later that day, I made my way to Nerac, where I would be staying for the next two months. After inspecting my new digs, I strolled out onto my private balcony and peered out at my incredible view. I realized this is exactly where I needed to be.

Mom was right. Texas can wait - I have the rest of my life to spend in the Lone Star State.

The view from my window in Nerac.

The view from my window in Nerac.

A shot of the local church during one of my evening stroll through Nerac.

A shot of the local church during one of my evening stroll through Nerac.