I interview restaurant chefs for the most part. But sometimes, I go off on a tangent and get to know another aspect of the industry. Located at 4th Street Market, Michael Puglisi's Electric City Butcher is teaching folks about meat. Like a modern-day Sam from The Brady Bunch, but with more of a backstory.
Could you elaborate on your "wholistic" approach to butchery, and how it differs from a traditional one?
There are several different understandings of "wholistic", and all are radically different from traditional butcher shops. My approach centers upon respecting the whole product given directly to me from the rancher that raised it. I respect his work by not purchasing cuts, but rather purchasing whole animals from him and utilizing that animal from snout to tail in various applications, whether raw, cooked or cured.
Most undervalued cut of meat:
The neck. Braised neck is more tender and unctuous than any other cut.
Favorite meal growing up:
My grandmother's braised rabbit, with pasta and peas.
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Diverse, up and coming, passionate young chefs; and a food scene that suddenly finds itself ahead of the curve.
One stereotype about your industry, and whether it's true.
We're not all misfits.
Who are some of your clients?
320 Main, Little Sparrow, Playground, Barrel & Ashes and Charcoal Restaurants.
Favorite places to eat.
I love taking my wife and daughter to Redondo Pier Fish Market. It's a refreshing escape, and it's cherished time with my family.
Most frequently asked question by guests.
"If I want something specific, can I call ahead and place an order?" The answer is YES!
What lesson(s) did you learn from working with Thomas Keller at Bouchon?
Chef Keller's most invaluable lessons were how to value and appreciate the relationships and friendships that you create when sourcing great product.
What's the one thing people didn't tell you about being in foodservice?
How rewarding it would be. In the food industry, you are an important part of someone's life and nourishment. If someone is willing to spend their hard-earned money on me, it's no longer simply a business transaction. It becomes a bond and a trust.
Where was your most recent meal?
Little Sparrow in Santa Ana. I've had the Pici with braised lamb neck, Tuscan kale and Calabrian chili three times in the last month.
What would be your last meal on Earth?
My mother's marinara sauce.
What are your most popular cuts of meat?
We sell an enormous amount of sausage, all made in house, by hand. The bone-in, pork rib chop from Cook's pigs is also one of our most sought-after cuts.
What advice do you have for home cooks when it comes to butchering their own meat?
Be patient and know what your planned usage is for the end result. You cannot just begin cutting something without first knowing exactly how you'll be cooking it.