Chefs at Nightbell and Cúrate are committed to sustainability and eco-friendly practices. To further this, Chef Katie Button implemented a nose-to-tail beef program in December, sourcing from Apple Brandy Beef.They purchase a full forequarter and break it down, dividing the meat between the two restaurants.
Chef Button, Cúrate’s and Nightbell’s executive chef and co-owner, discussed the process by which the two restaurants began using Apple Brandy beef. The switch to Apple Brandy was driven by Button’s mission to keep moving toward buying more and more local and sustainable products.
Chef Button said she was thinking about the environmental impact of simply buying cases of skirt steaks for Nightbell. It was overly packaged and was challenging for the farmer to produce just one meat cut. She said she wondered how they used the rest of the animal, and considered the beef needs of both her restaurants.
After purchasing beef at the Chop Shop Butchery, Button had to know where it was sourced. The quality was incredible. They told her it was from Apple Brandy beef, a farm in nearby North Wilkeboro, N.C.
From their website: “Apple Brandy Beef is raised on our third generation family farms in the foothills of western North Carolina… Apple Brandy Beef derives from cowherds consisting of Hereford and Angus cattle. For generations our family has selected specific genetics in an effort to produce a superior cow herd. The beef available for purchase is the product of these prestigious cow herds. We know the pedigree and complete history, including exact age, of each animal that goes into our beef program. On our farms we do NOT use synthetic hormones or antibiotics, except for medical necessity.”
Chef Button soon began ordering entire beef forequarters from the farm for her restaurants.
To begin the program, the team enlisted Matt Helms, head butcher and manager from the Chop Shop, to show them how to break down the large forequarter. There was definitely a learning curve, but the process has gotten smoother every time.
“Apple Brandy provides us the opportunity to source from a regional farm, while still providing us with the high quality product that our standards demand,” Matt Caudle, Cúrate’s executive sous chef said. “The fact that we get dry-aged beef means that we are getting beef with an intense flavor profile.”
Along with Caudle, Frank Muller, director of culinary operations for both restaurants, and Ben Butler, Cúrate line cook, have been a dedicated team when it comes to breaking down the beef forequarter. Their hard work is instrumental to the program, as Chef Button said the process is definitely more difficult. However, the staff reaction to the change has been positive.
“It gets our whole staff excited – they’re happy, they feel good about what they’re doing,” Button said. “There’s a shift in how they think about food and waste.”
At Cúrate, chefs grind the trim and fold it into their albondigas (meatballs) during the spring and summer and stuff canelones in fall and winter. At Nightbell, chefs create steak tartare, burgers, steaks, short ribs, and beef stock. The beef program allows for more product – Nightbell serves a variety of steak cuts. It becomes a great story to tell guests, and Asheville foodies love the flavor, quality, and admire the commitment to sustainability.
The staff has been coming up with new ways to use the whole product. For example, Nightbell sous chef Allegra Grant recently crafted beef sausages.
Button said the idea of getting the most out of what they have is spreading to the whole restaurant. Chefs look at the food they have in stock, examine ordering patterns and develop new tactics on and how to reduce food waste.
The concept is related to Chef Button’s recent involvement in the James Beard Boot Camp for Policy Change in May. There, chefs learned and brainstormed together, focusing on reducing waste. Chef Button learned that 40% of food produced in the US is wasted. She continues to apply lessons learned there to her restaurants in Asheville.
“It’s more than just the beef,” Button said, “it’s turning into our philosophy.”