Quest for the Best! Cochon Butcher, New Orleans / by MEAT ME

Finally I had gotten a hold of the publicist to meet up with The Butcher. Everywhere I have been has been talk about this place. Have you tired The Butcher yet? Nope. I felt so left out like the kid who had to ride out the basket ball game on the bench. Not anymore! Now it is my turn. I was set for a 2 o’clock because they are always so busy and on a Saturday I could understand that.

I headed out to the CBD to check them out parking was tight but I found something I got out and saw the big sign “Cochon” didn’t look busy at all I had no idea what they were talking about. Finally felt like I got lucky. I walked inside asked for Karen. She tells me your looking for the Butcher they are around the corner. I turned around the corner and my shoulders dropped this there was a line of people out in to the street. This place was packed.

I strolled on down and got in line and said to the nearest employee. “I am Sean Rice, I’m with MEAT ME!” she lit up and dragged me to the front of the line and set me up with Karen. The manager. I had no idea when things where gonna slow down so I said I would start with the photos and she said she would order me up some food.

This place is shoulder to shoulder it is packed, everyone looked really happy too and not minding the wait or the crowd at all. Now you all know my theory if people are waiting for food then the food must be worth waiting for.  I felt like I was finally apart of the club and no longer one of those boys sitting on the bench.

Finally Karen was able to break free and tell me a little about Cochon Butcher:

MEAT ME: So your Karen?

Karen: Yep, I am the General Manager.

MEAT ME: How long has The Butcher been here?

Karen: The Butcher has been here for about 3 years, the restaurant has been here for about 6 years. We opened about 6 months after Katrina and then we opened the Butcher Shop about 3 years ago.

MEAT ME: (I point at the giant crowd of people) Has it always been like this?

Karen: (laughs) Well… It stays pretty busy. Yea. Saturdays are definitely busiest.  We are a busy little shop.

MEAT ME: It has been like this since the beginning?

Karen: It has built but it has been pretty steady. We are defiantly busier then anyone expected we would be.

MEAT ME: Yeah! I mean… How do you even plan for this? So what are these 3 things here?

Karen: The pancetta mac-n-cheese. There is diced up mushrooms, onions, cheese, herbed breadcrumbs.

MEAT ME: What is this delightful piece of loveliness?

Karen: Boudin is a special Cajun Sausage. It is pork, liver, and rice with seasoning. We make our here and it is just so awesome. I just think it is mean that they don’t tell the rest of the country about it. I could eat it everyday.

MEAT ME: It is really good and you can really taste the liver in it.

Karen: Isn’t it? And the rice makes it a little bit lighter.

MEAT ME: What is this next one?

Karen: Duck Pastrami Sliders.

MEAT ME: It’s amazing and you really get that gamy taste.

Karen: Yep.

MEAT ME: So what was the idea behind the butcher shop?

Karen: Our 2 owners Donald Link (Finalist for the 2012 National Outstanding Chef by the James Beard Foundation) and Stephen Stryjewski wanted to do an old world deli where you can come in and get small plates, wine, deli or something from the case. I think they definitely wanted more of a relaxed atmosphere. Which it is.

MEAT ME: So where do you guys source your meats from?

Karen: Well we do everything here. We try and use as many local people as possible. We get whole pigs in and butcher them down. We get a lot of whole animals and butcher them here as much as we can and as local as we can.

MEAT ME: What do you guys source? Pork? Beef?

Karen: Yea. Steven even likes to do goats sometimes. We kind of keep our options open. We get quail in there… Lamb.

MEAT ME: With your business what is your ratio of butcher shop to food services? Is one more dominating than the other?

Karen: We are definitely both. We do more of our sales for food than out of the case. I would say may be 80% but it changes.

MEAT ME: On top of this do you guys also source for the Cochon Restaurant?

Karen: We have a forager, Ashley is her name, and we represent her restaurant also. Which is Donald’s first restaurant. Then Stephen and Donald opened up Cochon and then Calcasieu, which is private dining; and Butcher at the same time. We also opened a second Cochon at the Lafayette. We have a forager who gets local produce and distributes them throughout all the restaurants. She helps us get our pigs.

Actually Donald and Stephen are having a farmer raise their own pigs. They actually just had a cook out I drove up to Lafayette on Tuesday and they had a cookout up there with the very first pig that they raised the whole way though. It was amazing.

They went to Uruguay recently and the metal crucifix looking rack that they place at a 45º angle with a pig on it they put tiles and coals down and cook it for a really long time over slow heat. They had it out there that way and they started at midnight the night before and had a dinner that was open to the public at 8 o’clock at night. It cooked the whole time. The skin, because it cooked so slowly was so evenly crackled it was amazing it was this dark brown color. It was so good.

MEAT ME: So they didn’t rotate it? It was all cooked on one side?

Karen: No. Yeah it was amazing! (laughing) They do really cool things with pigs.

MEAT ME: I get jealous that I have to go back to Los Angeles you have really wonderful things out here.

Karen: Yea. We do.

MEAT ME: So what is the deal with the really cool meat case?

Karen: We cure everything here not everything is there we have meat in other places as well. We actually use all that stuff it is humidified in their and some age for a shot period of time and some age for 18 months or even longer.

MEAT ME: Really.

Karen: It’s amazing it is like a party in there when we bring the stuff down.

MEAT ME: Do you do dry aged beef?

Karen: No. We have some beef in there but we pretty much focus on the pork. We do the curing.

MEAT ME: And finally what is in this Sandwich?

Karen: Cochon Muffaletta. It is Italian meats with an olive salad with cheese. It is a classic New Orleans sandwich they have it all over the French quarter and different places. Since we cure the meats here it is way better.

It certainly is I can not complain about that. After a few more shots around the shop I noticed their T-Shirt section. One of the shirts had this hot warrior chic on it riding a bucking pig over the top it read “Pig Slayer”. Of course I didn’t just buy one I bought 4. Probably the coolest thing I have ever seen.

If anyone has time to check out any of Donald or Stephen’s restaurants I highly recommend it. Besides who wants to be that guy benched for the basketball game. Not me.

You can check out Cochon Butcher at:
Cochon Butcher on Facebook
An Twitter!/cochonbutcher

Pig Slayer!
Sean Rice