5 questions for Kelly Kawachi, Head Butcher at Boulder’s Blackbelly

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Kelly Kawachi curates the charcuterie program at Blackbelly in Boulder. Photo by Joni Schranz

to eat and drink

Kawachi – who will lead the expansion of Blackbelly’s butcher shop in 2022 – cooks the best, lesser-known cuts of meat and the only food she can’t live without.


Kelly Kawachi inspires Coloradans to support local agriculture, one spicy salami or one tender Wagyu steak after another. Kawachi – who was promoted from apprentice to master butcher at Boulder’s Black belly in March – works with Chef Hosea Rosenberg to oversee the entire butchering and sausage program in the restaurant and market. While there, she educates customers about the value of buying goods from local butchers who source responsibly raised cattle from ranches like Longmonts Buckner family ranch, Parkers Bootheel 7 Ranch, and brush McDonald family farm.

“I wish more people would understand what it really means to buy from butchers like ours that support smaller ranchers.” Kawachi says.We know it’s more expensive than the average grocery store, but when you prioritize what you put into your body, the reason for it is a worthwhile one. You get a much higher quality and an extremely local product that makes a difference for so many reasons, from health to the environment. ”

Kelly Kawachi, head butcher at Blackbelly in Boulder. Photo courtesy Blackbelly

Kawachi, a native of Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands, joined the Blackbelly team in 2016 when Rosenberg added an adjoining butcher shop and a quick, casual breakfast and lunch menu to his then two-year-old farm-to-table restaurant. Since then, Kawachi has mastered the art of dissecting whole animals using European suturing techniques: Methods honoring the contours of the animal’s muscles with cuts along its “seams” to minimize waste and achieve better cuts. She has also honed her sausage-making skills, making delicious creations such as chorizo ​​with chilli and garlic skewers, three-month-aged pork shoulder coppa, and pork terrine with olives and piquillo peppers.

In spring / summer 2022, guests at Blackbelly, which is expanding its butcher shop under the leadership of Kawachi, will be able to enjoy more meat dishes. The new market will also include a larger room with more seating and additional menu options (although the details are not yet finalized, there may be a killer lineup of small plates and cocktails). Meanwhile, Kawachi looks forward to diners trying the calming dishes of the recently launched Winter market menu like meatball subs and hot bologna sandwiches filled with cheddar and potato chips. Also, look out for weekly specialties like andouille po’boys and cassoulet stew, as well as a wider selection of salami and cold cuts.

Here, Kawachi sounds out She wants customers to understand about butchery, the best cold cuts to order, and the only food she can’t live without.

5280: What was it like growing up in Hawaii? How has that upbringing influenced the dishes you enjoy preparing today?
Kelly Kawachi: It’s a beautiful place to live and has such a laid-back island culture with a huge emphasis on family. But I definitely took it for granted until I moved to the mainland for college [at Mesa State University in Grand Junction] and soon recognized the uniqueness of my upbringing. Due to the immigration that occurred during Hawaii’s plantation era, the island has become such a melting pot for Asian cuisine. Exposure to this and traditional Hawaiian food has influenced which flavors I look for and which ingredients I prefer to use.

Are there any misconceptions you want to clear up about the butcher shop?
We often hear complaints about the limited quantity of each piece we have in stock. If people knew better how many of each cut makes an animal, they could better understand the amount available. We therefore hope to help our guests feel more comfortable with lesser-known but extremely tasty pieces. We suggest that customers discuss the cooking method they would like to use rather than the cut they have in mind. That way we can lead them to a similar cut that would be just as delicious, while also introducing them to something they may never have tried before.

A steak at Blackbellly. Photo by Joni Schranz

Which lesser-known styles do you recommend?
If someone has a top sirloin steak in mind, a culotte – also known as a picanha – would be fine, if not better in taste. Or try a Delmonico instead of a ribeye. One that we often get is that people want a fillet because of its tenderness. However, a bistro fillet, a little muscle meat off the shoulder, is just as tender and has a lot more flavor. After all, flanks, bavettes, and skirts are all similar in muscle structure and quite interchangeable when cooking. They differ slightly in thickness and tenderness, but do the job pretty much the same, especially if you’re making fajitas or stir-fries.

Which food can you simply not do without?
Rice … I can’t help it, I’m half Japanese!

If you could cook for three people – alive or dead – who would it be? What would you do?
There is only one person I would like to cook for and that would be my father. He died last year and he absolutely loved the food. I would give anything to cook him a 7X Wagyu steak that we sell in our store – either a Delmonico or a Denver steak. He would have loved to try these pieces, especially our Wagyu beef.

1606 Conestoga St., # 3, Boulder

Patricia Kaowthumrong

Patricia Kaowthumrong

Patricia joined the 5280 staff in July 2019 and is excited to oversee all of 5280 Magazine’s food and beverage coverage. Follow her culinary adventures on Instagram @whatispattyeating.


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