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For the love of meat

In the traditional sense of the word, a butcher slaughters animals, dresses their flesh, sells their meat or any combination of the three tasks. In The Bahamas, it’s mostly secondary butchers we see in action as they are the people who bone and trim primal cuts of meat and are usually employed at grocery stores. It’s to those persons to whom we turn in search of meats for our dinner, and to whom I recently went to in search of a chicken cut into eighths. When I got home I was horrified that the chicken I’d picked out for a special recipe was”butchered”into 16 pieces. What exactly was that butcher thinking?And did he know what he was doing?

Explaining this scenario to Wintroy Fowler, the head butcher at Our Lucaya Beach&Golf Resort in Freeport, Grand Bahama, I was startled to hear him say that the art of the proper butcher is a”dying breed.”

The chief butcher at the hotel who likens a beautiful, fresh cut of meat to a lovely woman simply could not fathom that butcher making that mistake. He explained it away by saying that grocery store butcher may not have heard me correctly. As far as Fowler is concerned, the quality of the final product on your plate all relies on the person performing the meat’s first preparation. In the final analysis, the work of butchers is vital. And he says they should be knowledgeable, and willing to learn about new meats and seafood and how to cut them.

In his position overseeing a department of four, Fowler’s team is responsible for all meat served at his property’s restaurants–and he has quite a number of outlets to service. He and his staff butcher packaged meats they get to each restaurant’s requirement, including any special cuts that may be ordered on occasion. An average days work include breaking down, chicken, conch, fish, and meat to each of the outlet’s requirement–whether a four-ounce filet or a gargantuan 22-ounce porterhouse steak. And he has to guarantee meat, seafood and poultry that is fresh, of a good quality and at its best.

While education is important, the butcher stresses to his staff on a daily basis to always keep a”clear head”while on duty. Those that don’t he says are liable to lose a finger or two he said as he showed three cuts on his hands, the result of his absent-minded days.

“Having a clear head means not thinking about your day to day problems, just thinking about what’s at hand and dealing with it.”

The second most important aspect to his job as far as he’s concerned is having a sharp instrument, and he says butchers should sharpen their knives more than once per day, because it allows them to make cleaner cuts and do the work faster with less pressure.”

If you’re looking for a man who can not only cut the meat, but offer suggestions, Fowler, who says the cow offers up his favorite cut of meat in the prime rib, is the person you want. To impress guests he recommends preparing a tenderloin, as it’s a cut of meat that”melts in your mouth.”

“Every animal has the tenderloin, a muscle that is never used. The backbone covers the tenderloin, so because the muscle is never used it’s so tender. Once cooked right that tenderloin will melt in your mouth like cotton candy. If you go to a restaurant and the chef is in a good mood or bad mood, or if he’s just learning–I don’t care what position he’s in, or how he feels–if he cooks good or bad, he can’t mess up a tenderloin. It’s still coming out good.”

This butcher’s top five meat eats include the ostrich, venison, beef tenderloin, rack of lamb and prime rib–and in that order.

When you next pick up meat to cook, Fowler’s advise is to look for meat that has bright red blood. Aged meat, he says will have darker blood in it.

For the excitement that you see all over his face when discussing meat, seafood and poultry, you would think Fowler grew up in a family of butchers and had this line of work in his blood so he couldn’t escape it. But to the contrary, Fowler, 32, who comes from a huge family with lots of siblings(15 brothers and 15 sisters)says most of the men in his family work in the construction field as his father was a builder. Fowler did not want to follow that trend. He took up a stewarding job in the hotel, and after completing his shift he would always head over to the butcher shop where he became fascinated with the art of butchering meat. From his initial cut, he said he knew that butchering had his heart. Six months after he picked up his first knife, the butcher moved on and Fowler was able to take over the butchering duties. The rest is as they say history. From his initial butchering job, Fowler moved on to other meat departments around Grand Bahama from the grocery store to a stint at Our Lucaya, before returning to the property where he’s now at for his second stint. He credits his current employers with making him the best possible butcher he could be, by allowing him to participate in seminars to further his knowledge.

The butcher says he’s always seeking to further his knowledge of all things meat, poultry and seafood, and believes butchers should never become complacent, and take every opportunity to learn new things.

“As he’s the starting point in the hotel to the final product placed before you on a plate, Fowler says he has made certain that at some point he has seen the finished product that is served to guests and has tasted everything from the Porterhouse steak in Churchill’s to the sushi in China Beach to the conch chowder at Sunday Brunch, to the cracked conch and pork chops.

He also has some culinary experience to his credit which he says helps him in his butchering duties, as it allows him to know how the meat should sit on a plate for presentation. His significant other is most happy to have Fowler in her life as he doesn’t purchase pre-cut meats at the grocery stores. The butcher purchases his meat in bulk and cuts it himself because of course he’s ensuring that he gets quality and only the best meats, seafood and poultry will do for this butcher.

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