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Butcher for a day!

The Italians, in addition to being a nation of poets, saints and navigators, are also enormously fond of cuisine.

A recent Doxa survey, commissioned by 'Italian Academy of Cuisine', suggests that about 7 Italians out of 10 learn to cook from their mothers and grandmothers. The remaining 3 make efforts to learn more about what most inspires them through courses and gastronomy literature. While it is true that only 10% of Italians learn to cook using tablets or other computer gadgets in the kitchen, the figure nearly triples (25%) for the under-30s, a generation more accustomed to new technologies that consequently become a good alternative to traditional family sources of information.

Simply go into any bookshop and count the number of shelves dedicated to cuisine or type 'food blog' on Google (544 million hits!), not to mention photos of dishes from around the world uploaded on Instagram or DIY video tutorial videos on YouTube, to understand that our appetite for culinary ideas is really fathomless. One excellent learning channel is represented by courses, currently a full-scale more or less everywhere. There are courses for every level, taste or age. The offering is extensive and involves starred chefs, restaurateurs, professionals and individuals, clubs and associations. And butchers!

Especially abroad, there are many masters of meat who open the doors of their shops, workshops and even their cold cells to greet aspiring chefs with keen on animal proteins. The first to do so in Italy was Dario Cecchini, in his 'Antica Macelleria' in Panzano in Chianti. As clients, friends, admirers and the merely curious come and go, Dario soon realised that his visitors were interested in much more than buying meat over the counter or enjoying meals in his restaurants. There was, and is, a desire to share.

Cooking meat well actually requires quite a few notions concerning the right cut, the use of spices and condiments, the most appropriate cooking techniques and the advantage, for people with the right skill and knowledge, of even boning cuts to minimise waste and enhance all meat. So, we toured the world of workshops and butcher shops to find out how a number of professionals in the meat sales sector are organised. 


Meats, San Francisco, USA

For over three years, butcher and author of books Ryan Farr has organised cutting and boning curses, which also include the preparation of delicatessen meats and sausages as well as a an introduction to various cooking techniques. 'These lessons should not be considered as a base of your culinary education,' says the staff of 4505 Meats on the butcher shop's website. 'They are a useful way to acquire greater awareness about meat purchases from local producers to be shared with your networks of family and/or friends. By taking part these courses, students help and support local livestock entrepreneurs and breeders.'

There are six theme-based courses: pork cuts ($350), front beef cuts, rear beef cuts, sheep cuts, preparing sausages with pork, mutton and beef, and a 'master class' focusing on beef. Except for this last lecture lasting 8-9 hours, all other lessons have a duration of 4 hours. At the end of the course, participants go home more than 6 kg of portioned and vacuum-packed meat.


Lindy & Grundy, Los Angeles, USA

Erika Nakamura and Amelia Posada, the owners of the Lindy & Grundy organic meat shop in Los Angeles, organise one-day butchery lessons aimed at enthusiastic 'carnivores'. There are nine training courses in total and prices range from $100 for the basic sausage course to $125 for chicken boning, $150 for cutting lamb and boning turkey (conceived for the Thanksgiving Day holiday dinner), $185 for front and rear beef quarters, $300 for the advanced sausage course, 3 lessons, up to a maximum of $750, and 5 lessons about pork. Activities also include a professional apprenticeship programme that costs $7,500 and lasts 6-8 weeks. The course envisages just one pupil and one teacher and is designed to provide preliminary professional training for butchers.


The Ginger Pig, London, UK

This butcher in the fashionable Marylebone quarter of London is well known and popular among meat lovers and organizes evening classes on cutting of beef, pork and lamb, as well as how to prepare sausages and delicatessen meats. The cost per person is £135. It is also possible to arrange group lessons for individuals, companies and even stag-nights! Borut Kozelj and Perry Bartlett often hold these classes for students, planned well in advance with long waiting lists, given the astonishing enthusiasm for these 'carnivore' courses in London. 'Boning a carcass and related cuts is naturally something you can't learn in a 3-4 hour course, even less so when the course that ends with a glass of Beaujolais and a plate of braised meat,' said Kozelj, a former Slovenian amateur boxer and today a butchery entrepreneur. 'It takes years of hard work, perhaps even a lifetime, to assimilate this profession but these training courses help bring people closer to the origins of what they eat, the animal and its anatomy, as well as respect for the meat and nutrition meat provides us.'


Antica Macelleria Cecchini, Panzano in Chianti, Florence, Italy

Dario Cecchini offers two types of course in Panzano in Chianti. The first is called 'Butcher for a Day' and is a daily stage open to everyone keep to spend a morning with Dario, Riccardo Ricci and the staff of the Antica Macelleria Cecchini. 'This is a chance to put on an butcher's apron and go behind the scenes, sharing every day work with us - as well as the change for 'hands-on experience' by preparing Burro dei Chianti, Cosimino, garlic sausage or other such specialities.' Students can take notes and take photographs. Weather permitting, there is also a visit to see Chianina livestock in the nearby Fontodi farm. After three hours of workshops from 10:00 to 13:00, followed by lunch in the 'Macelleria', students return home with a butcher's apron (which is not for sale) signed by Cecchini. The price is 200 euros per person. The second training idea is a lesson on the 'whole cow philosophy”. This course involves an hour of explanations dealing with the various cuts of beef, followed by two hours of 'food at table' with the menu 'From Nose to Tail'. It costs of 110 euros per person.


Le Bourdonnec, Paris, France

They call him the 'Bohemian Butcher', which is perhaps why he has a somewhat 'bad boy' image. Yet he is a genuine authority in the world of meat and a landmark for multi-star restaurateurs who make their purchases in his butcher's shop in Paris. Every Thursday afternoon, from 16:00 to 19:00, n°. 172 Avenue Victor Hugo sees Monsieur Le Bourdonnec, together with his wife, Yves-Maris, welcome carnivore customers and enthusiasts for a lesson on cuts of meat. And everything they do in the butchery they can then take home at the end of the lesson.


Feast! Fine Foods, Adelaide, Australia

This Australian butcher's shop in Mount Barker, about thirty kilometres south-east of Adelaide, offers a wide range of courses for enthusiastic carnivores. There is something for all tastes: how to make sausages, lamb, chicken and game, beef and even a master course in grilled cuisine. All the meat prepared during the lesson can be taken home. In addition, price of the course often includes a voucher which students can use in the butcher's shop for future purchases. There are also courses for preparing Christmas Dinner (which includes cooking duck, pork thigh and fillet, and preparing a roast turkey). Staff of Feast! in the Adelaide Central Market Kitchen also organise butchery classes for companies. Working to integrate relationships between colleagues, team building and motivational analysis with a fine sharp knife in one hand and a leg of Aussie lamb in the other is not such a bad idea!


Pig Full Immersion in the 'Bassa Parmense' area

Massimo and Luciano Spigaroli certainly need no introduction. 'Antica Corte Pallavicina' in Polesine Parmense (Parma) boasts 'culatelli' delicatessen meats maturing in the cellar and peacocks welcoming visitors at the entrance of the mansion to attend a course who very title explains everything: 'Pig Full Immersion'. It is a course dedicated to shopkeepers, pork butchers, counter operators or enthusiasts that analyses certain aspects of delicatessen meats without overlooking the importance of knowledge of many other variables, such as basic concepts of animal farming, the various breeds pork and the 'behaviour' of their meat once slaughtered, production of delicatessen meats, their conservation and serving techniques. The course lasts for 6 days and 5 nights and includes a complete visit to Antica Corte Pallavicina farm, pork meat processing (cutting and salting), the preparation of delicatessen means such as salami, cotechini, ciccioli, cicciolata and mariole, how to bind 'culatelli', 'coppe', 'preti', shoulders, loins, 'fiochetti' and bacons - as well as a course in theme-cooking. At the end of the week, the 'Masalen dal Po' diploma is awarded. The cost is 2200 euros per person (2,400 euros for a single room) with overnight stay and breakfast for 5 nights, visits, courses, dinners, lunches and light lunches. They are scheduled from January to February.


A four-handed course in Emilia: Butcher + Serial Griller

The idea for this article came about after taking part in a training course with Carpi butcher Roberto Papotti and serial griller Matteo Tassi, organised by Iscom Formazione for Modena con Gusto. The two evenings in butchery at Fossoli di Carpi for the course focused on red and white meats. A dozen participants - almost all men - with notepads and smartphones in hand ready to capture secrets and videos for a total of 7 hours. Greeted with an apron, informative material, slices of local salami and a glass of Lambrusco red wine, students first take part in a theory lesson dealing with various forequarter cuts, followed by a how to use knives, how to make a meat sauce, cook a roast and other meat dishes. The second appointment focused on white meats (cutting and boning a chicken and boning a rabbit), cooking of sausages, using spices with pork ribs, an explanation of vacuum cooking at low temperature and how to prepare a rabbit sauce. All the questions asked by students received a full answer. Over a glass of fine wine, paccheri with meat sauce, spare ribs and sausage. All-included for 90 euros. - -


We have arrived at the end of our journey. I hope you followed us here with pleasure and simple curiosity, to study this trend with us or, perhaps, bear us in mind during your business.


Source: Elena Benedetti (Eurocarni 1-2014)

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