NEW YORK – With a new hotspot to their names and reputations as some of the most in-demand women in the food business, Jocelyn Guest and Erika Nakamura, the butcher team behind April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman's Salvation Burger, are on the rise. They stepped away from their projects to join Sotheby’s on 5 May for Meat & Music, an event celebrating our upcoming Contemporary Art auctions. After dinner – an irressitable spread of dishes like smoked short ribs, pulled pork shoulder sandwiches, German potato salad, coleslaw and chicken hotdogs – we spoke with them about their perfect burger, the next big food trend and what they listen to when they're butchering.
JOCELYN GUEST AND ERIKA NAKAMURA. PHOTOGRAPH BY COLIN MILLER.
How would you describe the art of butchery?
Erika Nakamura: The art of butchery is such an artisanal and traditional one, while the new school of whole-animal butchers, like us, has put a new twist to it. To me, it’s really about doing the name thing over and over, but doing it better and faster and more efficiently every single time.
Jocelyn Guest: A lot of the artistry comes in being creative with showing people how to use different cuts and figuring out how to merchandise cuts in a certain way. Everyone wants the tenderloins, but to me, the interesting stuff is what someone will spend six hours cooking at home, like beef cheeks.
Is there a secret to the perfect burger?
JG: Fat and salt. When I eat a burger, I want it to be crispy and fatty and cheesy and to cure whatever ails you. At Salvation Burger, we grind the entire animal. Even the ribeye and New York go into the grinder, which to a lot of people is blasphemy, because they’re the money muscles. Then the muscles that nobody will ever buy, like the neck or down near the shank, are where all the flavour comes from. Grinding is the great equalizer. It’s a super sustainable way to use a whole steer. Nothing hits the garbage.
What trends do you think will be next on the contemporary food scene?
EN: I’m of the school of thought that we should revisit our roots and how our cultures were first eating with fresh meat and farmer’s market veggies. So many trends right now, like fermenting and bone broth, are about physical health and what your body responds to.
JG: I think people are also going to become a lot braver about good fats. I grew up in a house with low fat mayo and where my mother would cut the fat off every piece of meat. Well-raised animal fats have higher omega-3s and that kind of thing.
DINNER AT SOTHEBY'S MEAT & MUSIC EVENT. PHOTOGRAPH BY COLIN MILLER.
Riffing off Sotheby’s “Meat and Music” event theme: What’s your own ideal meat and music pairing?
JG: When Erika and I cut meat, music is very important. There’s a lot of Whitney Houston, a lot of Mariah Carey. I’m very partial to Journey and Heart, because that shit is real. When Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing” comes on and you’re breaking down a cow, it’s pretty incredible. This really brilliant charcuterist Michael Sullivan always told us that when you’re cutting pork, you should play Les Mis. He said pigs love that – you need to give them a narrative.
EN: There’s also the Morrissey’s Meat is Murder album, which I love. At one point I asked my friends what should I listen to when I’m cutting meat and that’s what they had to say. It’s pretty funny. I think music has a lot to do with getting us pumped. It’s very physical work. You’re either all in or not doing it at all.
What was the inspiration behind Thursday night’s dinner menu for Sotheby's?
JG: This is largely the kind of food I grew up with. That’s my grandma’s cornbread. Everybody loves barbeque. You’re automatically put at ease. And it makes people drink more.
EN: With our cooking in general, we make food that we want to eat. Like with the Hawaiian macaroni salad we made. I grew up in Tokyo but spent a lot of time in Hawaii as well, so I feel a kinship to that culture. We always pepper our food with tiki.