The Art and Economics of Charcuterie Part 3

by Amanda McDougall and JJ Proville
Antoinette Bruno Antoinette Bruno
May 2009

Charcuterie Part 3: The Hotel Chef

Chef Adam Stevenson started his salumi-making like many do: in school grinding meat and fat for fresh sausage. But these days Stevenson has elevated his humble meat grinding beginning to a full-scale charcuterie production that supplies the various F & B outlets of the W Seattle hotel, including Earth & Oceanrestaurant. Although Stevenson is afforded particular advantages that most chefs don’t have (a spacious kitchen facility, multiple walk-ins, a decent budget, and steady hotel clientele) that doesn’t mean he isn’t faced with other charcuterie challenges.

A steady stream of business travel patrons at the hotel translates to a constant flow of dining guests through Earth & Ocean and for in-room dining—no doubt a good thing. But this crowd isn’t into adventurous eating—tongue, blood sausage, and headcheese aren’t crowd pleasers here. It’s what Stevenson calls the cringe factor amongst his charcuterie-shy customers.

Consequently Stevenson orders nearly whole pigs from a local farm that picks and raises two pigs just for him for slaughter and delivery every two months. The animals arrive in his kitchen broken down into sections—and sans head, offal, and other nasty bits for which he has no venue.

From the time of the pigs’ arrival, Stevenson’s marathon meat magic begins. His salumi production becomes a big kitchen priority, and balancing that with his usual restaurant and hotel demands is a huge undertaking—that constant flow of hotel customers doesn’t let up, pigs or no pigs to process. The chef’s next priority is to make up for the big expense he’s just paid out for those two fine animals (roughly $3,000 to $4,000). Loins and other fresh cuts are put on the menu and sold in short order to help recuperate some of the cost immediately.

Despite the stress of processing 500 to 600 pounds of meat every other month, Stevenson likes the idea of getting those nearly-whole animals and the advantages of paying a flat rate per pound ($6 to $6.50/pound): It means no matter the cut or cure, his cost is always the same—from that $30 dish with fresh loin to the 12-month cured prosciutto he sells for roughly $40 a pound. It’s simple economics for Stevenson’s salumi art.