The Slow Food vet, who runs Belcampo’s retail and restaurant arms, has been busy spreading the gospel of meat, overseeing outposts in downtown Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, and Palo Alto, not to mention the newly opened restaurant–cum–butcher shop in lower Pac Heights.
The coppa steak (pig shoulder). Chris Arentz, our VP of retail butchery, taught me to dust it with fennel pollen before cooking—amazing.
Best thing you’ve eaten in the Bay Area:
Nopalito’s quesadilla roja should be listed on every Top Whatever list in the Bay.
What do you cook for yourself at home?
Anything from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem. And I make a mean steak.
What motivates you?
The idea that everyone will have access to eat and enjoy good-for-you, delicious, safe food one day. Really.
Chili cheese fries. Especially ours. Everyone at our restaurants makes fun of me because I love them so much.
Weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten:
Lamb eyeball on the island of Crete. Let’s just say I didn’t love it.
Who do you most admire?
Beyoncé, like every good American, and Julia Child. How cliché am I?
How did you originally become involved with Belcampo Meat Company?
Anya (our CEO) and I knew a lot of people in common thru Slow Food, Italy, and the meat world. When I decided to relocate from NYC to SF, I got in touch with her to learn more about what she was doing – it was the most interesting thing I had heard of happening anywhere in the food space. Ever. I started working for the company about 6 weeks later!
Belcampo is expanding at a tremendous pace. What’s been the biggest challenge?
Maintaining the enthusiasm that myself and our core team have for our concept and product among ALL our employees. When you’re one shop and able to be present all the time, you can have your finger on the pulse and get a sense of how people are feeling much more easily than when you have several locations, some of which aren’t close. That said, we are so lucky to have amazing managers working at our shops and restaurants who are so passionate and who can really transmit that enthusiasm to their teams—it’s something I’m hyper aware of as we grow.
What are you most excited about for the SF store?
What will be different, if anything? I live in SF, so having our meat right next door (relatively speaking) is going to be amazing—selfish, I know! Lots of stuff is different, though—we have a slightly more adventuresome menu (more heart!) and upscale feel than our existing spots: lots of gorgeous tile, our own leather, and wood. All our butcher shops try to cater to the local market, so while you can always get pretty much anything you like at the meat counter, we’ve customized our SF case for local shoppers.
What was your first food-related job?
Working at a deli and gift store in a beach town on the coast of Massachusetts. Great small world, Bay Area story on this one: I worked there with the incredible Emily Luchetti’s mother (she was in the gift shop, I was in the deli). This was a while ago, obviously, so it was when Ms. Luchetti was early in her career; I believe she’d just moved to SF. I remember her mother speaking fondly of her ‘Emmie’. It was so sweet! She was a wonderful woman.
What would you request for your last meal?
A huge plate of cured meat and cheese: maybe Pleasant Ridge Reserve, Epoisses, something from Andante, Greyson, culatello, prosciutto, a finocchiona salami, a French saucisson and a really, really good baguette. Some good mustard and olives would be great, too.
Food trend you’re on board with:
Housemade cured meats.
Food trend that needs to die:
Beverage as meal supplements. Soylent (it’s a real thing, ask The New Yorker!) scares me.
What is your motto?
Nothing worth doing is easy.
Which living culinary person do you most admire?
Favorite food as a kid:
There were a lot but I did love the Big Pancake—more commonly known as a Dutch Baby. I liked it for dinner especially.
What most influences your restaurants?
Favorite midnight snack:
Embarrassingly, I don’t really snack. I go whole hog or nothing.
What’s in your refrigerator?
As of today: bagna cauda that Anya made (way too long ago), whole milk, lots of cheese ends that I plan on making into a delicious cheese spread one day soon, snap peas, arugula, baby kale, many half jars of jam, many jars of random condiments, capers and anchovy, cilantro, dill, parsley, Belcampo eggs, Belcampo hot dogs, Belcampo coppa steaks (ha!), a bottle of sort of crappy Champagne, vermouth, and some sour beer (Goose Island!).
Where do you go for a good drink and what do you order?
I love a Negroni at Alembic in my neighborhood—I wish I went more often!
This is bad, but I was a New Yorker for many years and delivery and take out in the Bay just doesn’t compare. I think I’ve done it about 2 times in the last 4 years.
Bay Area restaurants on your list to try:
Saison, Commis, and the recently re-opened Outerlands!
Red wine and pizza.
Favorite don't-tell-anyone junk food:
Not sure if this counts but those Barbara’s jalepeno-cheddar Cheeto things—not the puffy, airy ones, the denser ones. They’re like Cheetos but made with slightly better ingredients.
Culinary habit you’d most like to kick:
I’m starting to think I use too much olive oil…our household of 2 adults averages about a gallon a month. But I can’t kick olive oil, it's too good!
If you weren't in restaurants, you'd be….
Working in a cheese cave.
Happiest food moment:
This is SUCH a tough one and it changes every day. One of my favorites is the time MJ, a classmate from my masters program in Italy, brought a tub of crème de gruyere back from her recent trip to Switzerland to share with the whole class – a delicacy none of us had ever tried. We were losing our minds over the stuff to the point that when it dripped off the amazing meringues we were eating it with, we ate it off our shoes. One of my other classmates actually declared in all seriousness ‘if everyone ate this, there would be world peace.’ Eating amazing food with the food-obsessed can be pretty fun.
Customer pet peeves:
Not letting us know what it is we can help you with!
Favorite culinary journey:
Describe your work persona in one word:
Favorite neighborhood spots:
Bar Jules (for the perfect food and Amy, the best manager in SF right now), InoVino (I happen to love volcanic soil and high altitude wines…where else in the world would you find a wine bar specializing in just this?), and Reliquary (I have a decent-sized shopping habit).
What do you want to be when you grow up?
How far would you travel for a killer meal?
Embarrassingly far. I once went to Paris from NYC. It was ridiculous and totally worth it and I’d do it again.
Strangest customer request:
One that I actually sort of loved— a guy asked for a pound of ground beef not wrapped up (just on a piece of butcher paper). He started eating it with his hands in the shop. Really needed some iron, maybe?
Most treasured possession:
Our cat, Mackerel.
Greatest professional moment:
To date, I think opening our second location in Downtown LA.
Wowing SF with our amazing meat and delicious food. That and a nice dinner and bottle of wine with my boyfriend, Peter, at our apartment.