Today ‘s sophisticated food culture includes TV shows, glossy magazines, and comprehensive newspaper articles that have elevated our understanding of food—and of meat. People used to buy meat at traditional supermarkets, sold in small packs of styrofoam and plastic wrap, without really knowing where the meat came from. Now, it’s a whole different ball game.
Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing Ryan Fibiger at his outstanding Westport, CT butcher shop, where he offers highly prized and boldly flavored cuts of meat. He is the first generation of butchers in his family, and is fast expanding his reputation as one of the best butchers in the country, changing the way food lovers and home cooks connect with meat. An old fashioned butcher shop with modern day ideals—simple as that
The store opened in November of 2011, and two years later, expanded to a bigger location across the street
The profile of the clientele is mixed, and the shop is not intended for the elite. Craft Butcher is for one and all, global style. Ryan didn’t anticipate that the core of his business would come from an international crowd that now live in Westport or nearby. ”These are the people who grew up with a butcher near their home, and look for the same experience here in the US,“ he said.
The same craving that drives homecooks to farmer’s markets for local produce, has made meat sourcing a sport equally praised.
Growing up in Michigan, Ryan was surrounded by good food, but nothing on the professional level. He pursued a career in finance, and married a great cook, his wife, Katherine Fibiger. As the couple moved to New York City, they immersed themselves into its hip food culture, and started to dream about it.
“I was looking for a way out of the business world, and my passion for food grew bigger. My wife suggested we open some kind of food business, but definetly not a restaurant.
They began to research and visit farmers, and suddenly the idea of a butcher shop started to take shape. Ryan studied the craft of butchery with Fleisher’s Organic and Grass Fed meats in Kingston, NY.
“We invested everything we had to open this shop,” said Ryan. They partnered with Paul Nessel, and Mark Heppermann, two other chefs and butchers.
The team share the value of quality and sustainability. They only source whole animals, and follow a nose-to-tail philosophy, meaning they use every part of the animal.
“We get a lot of special orders. Seventy percent of the business is pre order, very customized, like double cut pork shop, bone in beef, etc. Most of these cuts are not American, and most of the people cooking these meats aren’t either”, he explained.
At Craft Butcher, the animal is pretty much slaughtered at site, which gives them the freedom to create and name new cuts.
“We have our preferences, for example I prefer cattle to be grass fed, but we are sympathetic to the fact that here in the north-east, there is a lot of snow, so it’s ok, if they feed the cattle some grain, because we trust our farmers.” said Ryan.
Education is really their best selling product, right after meat, of course. Leading people by the hand is what they do, and if you are looking into advancing your meat theory, this is the place to go.