Five Questions With A Craftsman
I. Who are you and what is it that you do?
I live in Austin, TX and I am a butcher. I focus primarily on Salumi, the Italian craft of curing meat, but make a lot of other products as well. I work mostly with pork, but am starting to expand into working with other meats.
I source all of our meats from local farmers, and try to buy whole animals and do all the butchering in house. I want to respect the animal and the farmer who raised it, as
well as the craft of butchering, and I try really hard to make something great out of every part of the animal.
The craft of butchering came dangerously close to being completely lost in this country, but there is a renaissance under way and I'm proud to be part of a new generation of butchers who are bringing it back.
II. How did you get into this?
I can't explain how I became a butcher without first saying that I was a vegan for 10 years. In my mid twenties I started rethinking my position on eating meat, but I was still concerned by many of the things that initially caused me to become a vegan. I didn't want any part of factory farming and all that came with it.
At the time, I was living in Oakland, CA and was lucky to have access to an incredible variety of resources including some amazing local farmers and ranchers. My wife Natalie and I joined a meat CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) with Marin Sun Farms.
Suddenly we were getting 9 lbs of meat a month and had to figure out what to do with it. I started experimenting with making sausage at home and really enjoyed
it. Through a set of bizarre and lucky circumstances I ended up leaving my job and doing an apprenticeship as a butcher with Marin Sun Farms.
I continued to practice at home and did some short stints with a bunch of other great places throughout the Bay Area. When my wife and I relocated to Austin, I started Salt & Time.
III. What do you bring to the table that others don't?
I don't have a lot of background in the culinary world, so I think I have a slightly different approach to my craft than a lot of my peers. A lot of the new wave of Butchers have either been formally educated in culinary schools or worked their way up in restaurants.
I started from a very different place, learning from experienced butchers who had worked in heavy duty processing and retail meat cutting operations. An animal gets broken down completely differently for a retail butcher shop than it does for a restaurant. Even though I focus on more of the charcuterie type products, I am really glad to have that background.
IV. For whatever reason, you are no longer able to do your craft. What do you take away from having done it?
Being a butcher has lead to me start my own business; forcing me to be a general contractor, handyman, equipment repair man, and accountant. I've gained a great deal of confidence in my own ability to do things and solve problems. I think that confidence would carry over into anything else.
V. What do you always carry on you??
I carry an old Leatherman, in a real leather case. Having a Leatherman is like having MacGuyver in your pocket.
Photographs: JonPaul Douglass
Interviewers: Aaron Martin, Danny Jones
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