What can I say? I love meat. I’ve always loved meat, in fact I’ve always loved food in general. Some of my fondest memories of growing up revolve around food. When I was 7, I remember being in Japan and eating my first unagi-don. I remember falling in love with the first bite of that sweet, salty, fire-roasted serpent. When I was 8, I remember eating my first escargot, and realizing how amazing butter and garlic can make anything taste. At age 15, I got my first job at Topdog in Rockridge. It was is a tiny gourmet hotdog grill serving up some of the best sausages in the bay area. I wasn’t even legal to work at that age, so I had to convince my mom to get me a work permit. I just wanted free sausages.
Growing up, I was exposed to all kinds of food, and enjoyed pretty much everything (except for the morning natto). I was taught about food and where it comes from, or at least vegetables and fruit, but with meat and seafood I still had a lot of questions.
In 1996, I was going through school and needed a part-time job, so I took on an entry-level position at VerBrugge Meats in Oakland. I was excited because I wanted to learn about meat, it was a cool place, it paid decently, and I had a couple good friends who were already working there. The guys we worked under were old bay area butchers, mostly Italian. I started out washing dishes, taking out the trash, and slicing bacon. Over time the old guys started to show me their craft because I, kept a smile on my face, kept my mouth shut when needed, didn’t complain, didn’t call in sick, and worked my ass off. So my reward was first hand meat knowledge, or so I thought. What it turned out to be was lessons on loving life, surrounding yourself with good people, and eating good food. They didn’t teach me how to cut a veal shank, they taught me how to prepare osso buco. They didn’t teach me how to work 16 hour shifts, they taught me how to appreciate it and not to complain about it. Above all, they taught me how to work hard for what I want in life and what ever I do, do it with pride and passion. I am forever grateful to have known such great people.