A famous quote once cited that a “Recipe has no soul, You – as the cook, must bring soul to the recipe” – something I, having dabbled as a chef and now restaurateur fully concur with…….however, before I don my James brown esque cloak and limber up my vocal chords for a “soul medley” one other essential & vital component has been omitted from this otherwise perfect statement……..the ingredients!!! Alas, as simplistic as it may sound – there is no point having the Michelangelo of the cooking world manifesting perfection at the pass if he or she is using substandard fare to cook up their culinary masterpieces! This is something I have always been very passionate about – although perhaps even more so now that I am opening up my new venture (Avenue by Nick Munier) – having sourced what I can only describe as an amazing crew encompassing both front and back of house I realised more than ever that the particular menus in which I envisaged for my new premises needed to reflect the highest quality of standards in order to ensure that my brand for Avenue was always renowned for serving up consistently high quality food in a casual dining setting and price range.
Having been introduced to Rick Higgins by a mutual friend, I instantly fell in love with his artisan style butchers (the HQ of which is in Sutton, Co. Dublin) – not only did it remind me of the French style butchers I encountered as a child whilst visiting my grandparents,but I finally met someone with as much of a passion for food as me and in ensuring quality and high standards at all time – particularly as we would both be at the helm of putting our names to the meat (or in my case the restaurant!). We instantly had a rapport (perhaps over our mutual love of Meat Porn!) and I knew from that day I wanted to work in conjunction with Rick – as a 4th generation butcher his old school methods were exactly what I wanted to associate myself and my crew with & the fact he is already working with some of the other great restaurants in Dublin was also another winning factor – not withstanding he is the only butcher providing free range pork in Ireland.
After an invitation by Rick to visit the O’Gorman Meat site in Kildare, myself and some of the Avenue Crew donned our wellies and took to the country roads to fully immerse ourselves in finding out exactly where our meat will come from! In an age where we are used to seeing carefully packed trays with “Strategically coloured” meats in some supermarkets one would almost be forgiven in forgetting where meat actually comes from! The reality soon hit us when we were asked to play dress up in “butchers whites” avec hair nets and shoe covers! (not our finest look albeit, but we looked the part!!!!). Credit where it is due, James, his wife Nicola and the team have a fantastic set up – every attention to detail was met & all our questions answered. Needless to say, I won’t enlighten you with the intricacies of what happens within the confines of the abattoir, however, what I will say is the set up is phenomenal in that the animals are already living on the farm on site (so there is no painstaking long journey for them to endure!) and they have the freedom to walk around outside for up to 2 hours on the day of their slaughter – something that is unheard of in most other commercial lead slaughterhouses where the numbers of animals would be too excessive to allow this. The fact that they kill only 60-70 animals a week ensures standards are kept, animals are less stressed & its very much a quality rather than quantity approach – which is so refreshing to see in this day and age & something I am very proud to be associated with. Rick hand selects his cows from O’Gormans which ensures they are the suitable breed for dry ageing & the traceability is so good that we are just short of knowing the Irish cows names!!!
So in conclusion folks, in an age where every man (or in my case customer!) judges a restaurant on their standard of meat (particularly their steaks!) – I am happy to sleep easy at night knowing I am associating myself with a team of people that focus on the full chain involved in bringing the “farm to the fork” – a farm animal given a good quality of life makes for a contented butcher, which leads to a happy restaurateur which in turn equates to a satisfied, delighted customer who will hopefully come back for more & more!