Cutting meat was not what little me wanted to do when he grew up. It is a far cry from the NBA, NFL and MLB which I was sure I was destined for. Unfortunately, it is even further from the winning lotto ticket that I am realizing daily is not in my future.
When I understood that I was more Kenny Powers than Michael Jordan, two things happened.
1.) The world crushed my spirit.
2.) I began my quest for work. Please keep in mind that “I” in the previous statement means my mother made me get a job. Also keep in mind that when I say “made me” I mean the job was already set up through friends of friends of friends.
I began working at the meat market when I was 16. As with any good business, I started at the bottom; prep work, washing dishes, taking out the trash, cleaning machines, mopping floors and general shit work. In my opinion, this is the ONLY way to teach and train. Why? It forces the positions of higher authority to understand anything below them. Plus, it keeps resentment of those lower positions at a minimum. Thanks to this policy, we’ve stopped hiring “butchers” that were trained elsewhere, no matter their years of experience, due to a lack of knowledge and ability. The last two butchers we didn’t train had over 60 years of what they called experience between them. Needless to say, they sucked ass and after several months of trying to correct the problem, we fired them.
Two years of the dirty deeds went by before an opening on the Butcher Block became available. Being 18 afforded me the option of learning to cut and work full time. I jumped at the opportunity.
I have the gift at being very good with my hands and Butchering came very naturally to me. That isn’t to say I learned it quickly. It took roughly 6 months of daily cutting to learn and become familiar with the 120 feet of occupied counter space we use every day. Depending on your skill set and intelligence level, this process can take anywhere from 6 months to several years. Our meat market goes through more meat in a decent weekend than most grocery stores sell in a month so I was subjected to the task constantly.
Each of the four Butchers at out market is extremely well rounded in our knowledge of the meat world. Each of us also excels in a certain area of our trade. I pride myself on being able cut to near perfect weight, size, shape or thickness. Think of it as the Michael Jordan of meat.
It would be much easier if cutting meat was exactly that. However, a good butcher can tell you a myriad of things.
1). What cuts work with certain dishes.
2). What cuts can be substituted for others.
3). How to prepare and cook most of the meat.
4). Alternative names for cuts due to local grocery stores making shit up so you are more likely to but it (thanks loads H*****S. Idiots.)
5). The difference between Organic and Natural certifications.
6.) Where to go if you ruin your meat and blame it on your butcher.
7.) etc. etc. etc.