• Casbah restaurant in Pittsburgh ("That's where I learned more than any other place")
• Stokes Restaurant & Bar in Monterey
• Bernardus Lodge in Carmel
• Bouchée in Carmel
• Manresa in Los Gatos
• L'Auberge Carmel
Recently, his dream to open his own restaurant serving all locally sourced foods was eclipsed by the realization that he has a higher calling. “Do what you love and the money will follow” is no mere cliché from self-help books: in Justin's case he went from making slave’s wages (about a hundred dollars a day for grueling and long workdays) to making an actual living for himself.
All because he found the right ranch, raising pastured animals in the healthiest conditions.
So today, I drove down to the Feel Good Foods kitchen, where Justin is renting time and space, to check out his operation. (Warning: a photo of pig skulls is coming up. Already cooked, not bloody.)
“Operation” is an apt word: the fascinating process of deconstructing a pig's butt was more like surgery than cooking. Justin deftly and swiftly separated muscle, tendons, connective tissue, and skin from the luscious and fatty meat. (Pictured above: a butcher’s toolbox.)
“I have seven pigs to process. I’m going to be sleeping in my van up here. The wrong compressor arrived for the cooler I’m trying to have repaired, so I have to get the pigs one at a time from Freedom Meat Locker. And I'm supposed to work the farmers market on Wednesday.”
All this in Thanksgiving week.
“I've been figuring out which of all these roasts I’m serving at our house. I think this is the one,” he said, hefting up the giant slab of pink meat that he had separated from the heavy butt.
I told him about the 4" layer of fat on the Amish-raised pig that Michael Ruhlman had posted on his blog. Justin went into the cooler and pulled out the belly. “Not 4", but respectable. And beautiful.”
He dead-panned: “Jim needs to lay off the marijuana.” Heh.
I walked around the kitchen and these jars caught my eye. They’re the spice mixes he uses in his sausages.Which he’ll be making this week, and which I will also get to photograph.
Justin told me he's devising a curriculum for Julie, so she can claim an externship or apprencticeship. “She's awesome,” he said.
What is especially pleasing to me is not only how the Santa Cruz community has embraced Justin's work: he routinely sells out of product at the farmers markets. It's that he's using the Feel Good Foods kitchen to work. I mean it when I say that every single thing coming out of that kitchen is as good as a product can be, which makes it among the best in the world. The work that Heidi and Amy are doing is something I regard, in a food-related way, as holy. It's about taking carefully grown fruits and vegetables and honoring them with equal care and intention.
Justin’s in the right place.
And, if you appreciate the honest work of a skilled butcher, and live in Santa Cruz, so are you.
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I feel a good Bill Maher-esque rant coming on. New rules for NaBloPoMo!
"Writing a post that contains a single sentence either complaining about not having anything to write about, or apologizing for having only a single sentence, does NOT constitute an official post for NaBloPoMo!"
Are ya with me? I can't believe the lame crap I'm seeing on the Randomizer. Sheesh.
And all the people who've already dropped out.
Oh well, onward!
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THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: “Ever consider what pets must think of us? I mean, here we come back from a grocery store with the most amazing haul—chicken, pork, half a cow. They must think we're the greatest hunters on earth!” — Anne Tyler, The Accidental Tourist
Thanks for visiting.