My life has never been sheltered when it comes to the ins and outs of meat.
From as far back as I can remember my parents have been involved in the meat industry.
When I was of a very young age, my stepfather met my mother and the story of my introduction to meat stems from there. My stepfather was, and still is, a butcher by trade along with his father and brother. Earlier his grandfather was the founder of the slaughter-house (abattoir) in Canberra, Australia. By the time I entered school, my extended family of mother, father, sister and brothers, 7 in total, were in some way involved in the meat trade and mostly at the slaughter-house in Canberra.
There were unexpected benefits. If a pregnant ewe came in and lambed overnight we would take the lamb home to raise in the backyard. I remember at one stage having 8 young lambs running around which meant coming home from school on lunch breaks to bottle-feed the little blighters.
When I was 15 my parents went back into retail butchery. It was a husband and wife operation with a little help from me making sausages and minced meats. After leaving school this is where I began to learn real skills as a butcher. Father was a very good teacher, but sometimes lacked patience. If something wasn’t right, or up to his high standards he would make you do it over and over again till it was perfected. A habit I have now picked up when training my new butchers.
After a brief stint with Daylesford Organics, I joined the Ginger Pig @ Borough market. Under the watchful eye of Paul Greatorex, I built my knowledge of meat, breeds and the importance of animal husbandry more than I had in my entire butchery career so far. It was great working with Paul listening to all his stories about the way London butchers used to be. Murray’s meat market and their massive meat displays was often a topic. Paul still carries the photos around with him. They show massive meat displays that were created for competions, every thing from top displays to whole sides of pork hanging above the meat counter. Paul is a very talented butcher; one of London’s best and most passionate. When he left The Ginger Pig I had the chance to become manager and work a little closer with the farm. This involved a couple of trips and over night stays at Ginger Pig HQ in lovely North Yorkshire. Whilst working at “The Pig”, I met some very nice customers who I still love to catch up with and a lot of great chefs like Nuno Mendes, Ben Greeno and Adam Perry Lang of Daisy May’s fame in the States. Adam eventually asked me to join him and Jamie Oliver in the opening of Barbecoa Restaurant and Butchery. An amazing experience and a real eye opener to just how differently meat is treated across the pond, lots of BBQ, brining, different cuts like short rib (Jacobs Ladder), Denver and especially interesting were the South American influences, like pulled pork or picanhana (the ‘cap’ or top muscle from the rump), more popular in Brazil than Rib eye or Fillet, get yourself some if you haven’t already. I recommend a BBQ or very hot griddle and only cooking to medium rare.