Supermart butcher completes training in US
The butcher counter at Supermart was an unlikely career choice for someone without any knowledge of meats.
Phillip Lawrence hoped his love of food would help him pass muster when he presented his résumé to the Front Street grocer.
He'd been enjoying seasonal work as a marine pilot, but needed a career that would provide “year-round steady income”.
“They brought me in for a cut test and they were desperate,” he laughed. “They [now] know my work ethic and they've seen what I do and decided I was a great investment, so they brought me on board.”
The 26-year-old remains convinced that being a “foodie” helped. He studied culinary arts at the Bermuda College and worked in the kitchens at Beau Rivage and Coral Beach Club. He'd also grown up in the industry. His father, Paul Lawrence, owns lunch staple Hickory Stick.
“I guess I proved myself because they wanted to send me away to school and get me certified,” he said.
He spent the summer at Fleishers Craft Butchery in Red Hook, Brooklyn earning his chops in whole animal butchering, a practice not available on-island.
His employers provided him with tuition, salary and accommodation. The 12-week programme took him through the process of bringing meats to the table: farming practices and slaughter procedures, retail and wholesale.
“[Supermart owner Tredick Gorham] made sure I had everything I needed, so I could get the best experience that I could,” he told Lifestyle.
Classes started at 8.30am. Mr Lawrence made sure to be at the USDA facility when it opened at 6am.
“I was getting up just so I could get that extra two hours of cutting and more experience and better myself,” he said.
“I mean, I'm up every morning to make work at 6 now as it is.”
He spent his days in a 20 by 20 foot “fridge”. The carcasses were delivered, hung and then sprayed with lemon water to clean them.
“We'd start at 6 in the morning with lamb, then 7.30 to 11 is beef and then we take lunch and 12 to 2.30 was pork,” he said. “Lamb doesn't bleed as much as beef or pork and there are fewer pathogens because there's less blood, less protein leaking. Pork has a very high pathogen so you want to do that last to avoid contamination. Also, if you're selling your beef to anyone that doesn't eat pork, you're not getting that on the beef.”
Two would-be classmates backed out at the last minute. The one-on-one tuition proved invaluable.
“I knew how to cut steaks and do roasts, but I'd never broken down a whole animal or even seen a whole animal to break down. Now I have a better understanding of where the different parts come from on the animal,” he said.
His teacher was also a chef. After cutting, he would demonstrate cooking methods.
“They were always giving me meat to take home to try. Different cuts that we don't always get [in Bermuda],” he said.
The Denver steak was one of his favourites.
“It comes off the chuck, which is part of the shoulder,” he said. “Most people tend to roast it, but I found out you don't actually have to. It's a very tender cut. It's got a lot more flavour simply because it's a more worked muscle. More blood is pumping through so you get more proteins and minerals pumped into those muscles. The flavour is a lot more intense than what you'd normally find, but it's still fairly lean.
“We will be having those at Supermart pretty soon.”
Despite his three months slicing meat, he was most impressed by the city's seafood.
“I'm from an island. What can you expect?” laughed the butcher, who is now intent on making his mark at the store.
“Honestly, I'm enjoying it. Working for Mr Gorham is a pleasure. He's always looking to help people. I feel so grateful for what he's done for me, I just want to give back to him. I can see myself staying here and trying to go up in the company.”