Cows and Chicks: Grrls Beef Camp

“Hang on: I’m gonna come over and feel your rump.”

So spake Master Butcher Kari Underly at last Monday’s Grrls Beef Camp (she meant a rump roast, I might add), a one-day, hands-on educational event for women in the meat business in and around the NYC metro area. I am neither (a) in the meat business nor (b) in the NYC metro area, but I am a woman with a keen interest in meat-cutting and willing to travel, so I was allowed to take part (thank you New York Beef Industry Council, Northeast Loves Beef, and the South Dakota Beef Industry Council for letting me crash this meaty party!).

Now *that's* a knife!

Our group of twelve grrls gathered on Monday morning in the kitchen at Astor Place, a little caffeine deprived, perhaps, but full of beefy gusto. Among my cohorts for the day were chefs, culinary students, meat cutters…in essence, eleven women who had more right than I did to be there, but who were fantastically supportive despite my gooberish-ness and a heck of a lot of fun. We learned a bit about raising beef cattle, the nutritional profile of various cuts, and gathered some cool recipes for America’s favorite protein. We heard funny/not-funny stories of the sexism rampant in the meat world (Seriously, people: it’s 2013. Women can butcher. Get over it, or at least keep your chauvinistic traps shut.) But mostly: we cut meat.

Check out all this cool swag! Including Kari's James Beard-nominated book!

And did I mention we also got hats and aprons? Thank you Susie Strassburger!

Kari led us through cutting the large sub-primals, specifically top sirloin and ribeye, into serving size portions, and introduced us to creative cutting options. Sure, a mess of Flinstone-style ribeye steaks is great (better than great, the husband would contend), but isn’t it also cool to think that that same sub-primal could produce petite ribeye filets, unctuous ribeye cap kebabs, and succulent ribeye sandwich steaks? With deft hands, mad knife skills, and a quick wit, Kari made us all feel like meat rock stars. Under her warm and confident tutelage, the hours flew by, and I watched in awe as we all fabricated fancy-dinner-worthy portions from the huge mounds of beef before us.

This massive hunk of top sirloin...

...yielded these beautiful sirloin fillets (plus lots more).

Kari's ribeye fabrication.

My (ahem) slightly more ghetto ribeye fabrication.

It was the kind of experience that makes me want to think BIG about my life. It was the type of experience that makes me realize I need to get a freaking PLAN and I need to get cracking on it NOW.

Grrls at the grill creating beefy deliciousness.

Big thanks and meaty hugs to Kari Underly for being such a bad-ass woman in the male-dominated world of butchery; to Jean O’Toole, Christie Brown, and Valerie Van Dyke for organizing and presenting us with much food for thought; to Cindy Chan Phillips for her nutritional insights; to Chef Melissa Doney Sheridan for her leadership in the kitchen; and especially to the other GRRLS, who enriched me with their experiences and gave me some fantastic role models in this world of butchery! I can’t wait to do it again!

I made full use of my thirty-six hours in New York. In addition to the butchery extravaganza, I stayed at the super-hip Ace Hotel The room was appointed so thoughtfully and with such great humor—instant ramen in the snack box—it will likely become my home base on future overnight trips. Truly, though, on the bell curve of hotel guest hipness, I was totally in the bottom quintile, if you know what I mean. Nonetheless, while there, I ate a much anticipated dinner at The Breslin, where I consumed a scotch egg that will forever haunt my dreams. Chef April Bloomfield is a devious genius. I also scored some cool bitters and salt at The Meadow, snagged some disturbingly cheap cashmere sweaters at Joe Fresh, and watched Casablanca on the side of a building in the Flatiron district.

No question about the size of my room at The Ace; April Bloomfield's Scotch Egg; Ilsa & Rick.

Through it all, this tune ran through my head. I love New York always, but autumn is particularly special.

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12 Responses to Cows and Chicks: Grrls Beef Camp

  1. Kari Underly says:

    Thank you for writing about our meaty story! I enjoyed spending the day with you, bring on the basque country!

  2. Thank you for a meaty blog. Seriously jealous about the scotch egg at April Bloomfield. What a great way to end a work week!

  3. Christie Brown says:

    What a pleasure having you at Grrls Beef Camp Jamie!! Keep cutting and cooking beef :)

  4. Valerie Van Dyke says:

    Great post! So happy to hear people enjoying beef and sharing their experience with others. Sometimes playing with knives is really fun! :)

  5. Louis Bourbon says:

    So you’re cooking beef, like, sometime soon. Right?

  6. Cathy says:

    So so glad you had this opportunity, Jamie. I recognize that response to the experience…

  7. Michaela says:

    This is great Jamie! I too am fascinated by butchering and what comes from where on a cow. Glad you got to go and share you adventure w/ us. And more options w/ ribeye?!? Yes please!! xoxo

Comments are closed.