Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sky Full of Bacon: The Butcher's Karma

Posted By on 03.06.12 at 01:30 PM

At the Butcher & Larder
The Butcher's Karma, the latest installment from local filmmaker/Grub Street editor/Key Ingredient videographer Michael Gebert, is now online at Gebert's blog Sky Full of Bacon. It premiered a couple weeks ago at a benefit dinner at Uncommon Ground, but its posting was delayed slightly because Gebert had to wait for the go-ahead from the recently opened Publican Quality Meats. It focuses on the stories and philosophies behind the Butcher & Larder and PCM, both in Chicago, and Black Earth Meats, a butcher near Madison, Wisconsin, where locally raised animals are slaughtered on-site.

The film kicks off with Rob Levitt of the Butcher & Larder (formerly the chef at Mado) explaining why he holds his knife "like a serial killer" as he carves up a side of beef; he also touches on how he made the transition from music major to chef to butcher. Butchering whole animals makes you a better cook, he says, because you have to figure out ways to use every part.

Paul Kahan (Blackbird, the Publican, Big Star), wearing a "Pork Crawl" shirt, talks about the shrinking of the meatpacking district over the last half-century or more before taking Gebert on a tour of Publican Quality Meats. Erling Wu-Bower, one of the Publican chefs in charge of PQM, shows off the meat locker (I find it pretty funny that he's chewing on something in every shot he appears in, but it's never clear what).

One of the purveyors they use is Black Earth Meats, whose owner, former vegetarian Bartlett Durand, appears in the final video segment discussing his Temple Grandin-inspired practices for keeping animals calm after they're delivered to his facility. Before, he says, the workers would get pumped up to kill the animals, treating it like a sporting event, which allowed them to disconnect from what they were doing. Now everything has been quieted down, and Durand is so open about the process that he installed a window in the room where carving of the meat takes place so that customers can see what goes on.

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