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5 MINUTES WITH ANTHONY PUHARICH

We had a quick catch up with butcher, Anthony Puharich of Vic’s Meat’s to find out where his career in butchery started.  Anthony will be at the Good Food & Wine Show’s this year demonstrating on stage with buddies Colin Fassnidge in Sydney and Matt Moran in Perth.  Vic’s Meats will also have a stand at the Sydney show so you can sample and take home some of their delicious produce!

Was the meat industry always part of your plan?

In essence, my father is a fourth generation butcher, but he didn’t want me to follow in his footsteps. I was nine months into studying finance and economics when I came full circle and approached him to become a butcher. Was it a part of my plan? Never no, but obviously butchery was a big part of our history particularly from my father’s side and now it’s my whole life.

What’s the most popular item at your Sydney butchery Vic’s Meat Market?

It’s definitely not your average butchery shop. It has three quite distinct facets to the store – primarily the Butcher retailing fresh quality meat, but also the Smokehouse and Grill. Our beef offering is extremely popular from steaks and mince to wagyu. And of course lamb too, whether it’s cutlets or legs. At our Smokehouse & Grill the smoked sandwiches with brisket and pulled pork are very popular.

What’s your favourite thing about presenting new products to people?

A big part of the success of the Vic’s Meat business has been the innovative approach to promoting, selling and marketing meat. We see it as an important responsibility to educate and inform people and we love bringing new products to the market. We were the first business to pioneer the broad use of dry aged meat – we didn’t invent it of course, but we were the first business to start preparing meat in that fashion. We saw this amazing opportunity to honour the animal. My father was massively instrumental in terms of salvaging what we consider to be secondary cuts to not end up in trim but instead marketing them as individual unique cuts by using a particular cooking method to extract the absolute best. That’s the thing I enjoy the most: educating, informing, challenging, and getting people to think about meat in a different way and to eat more of the animal. By eating more of the animal, you’re enjoying all the different textures and flavours.

What meat/cuts are ‘in fashion’ at the moment?

Meat in the last five years has become more expensive, especially good quality meat. That means we can’t expect to eat scotch fillet every day. By default we love eating meat, so I’ve had to look at all these other cuts like lamb shoulder, beef cheeks, flank steak, inside skirt, rump cap, brisket, oyster blade, flat iron. Those cuts are now very much in vogue and popular. Because people have taken that leap of faith, they’ve discovered the amazing intrinsic qualities and characteristics that these alternative cuts have. They have more of that gelatinous texture and more flavour – that’s where things have headed. Cured meats have also become a lot more popular – the cured meat offering 20 years ago was very ordinary. You’d go to a bar and you’d be given beer nuts and pretzels, now it’s charcuterie and cheese plates.

What’s your favourite meaty dish?

It’s hard for me to single out one thing. At the end of the day, it’s probably beef wellington. It’s one of those iconic, beautiful beef dishes that when you do sit down and eat, there’s this royal, celebratory, happy feeling that comes over you. It looks amazing, grandiose, special. That’s one of my favourites, but there are many more because of my extreme passion for the industry.

What meats/cuts are the most underrated?

Very little nowadays, which I’m proud to say. There’s been an amazing shift in attitudes – there’s this respect for the animal, for meat. There’s this real willingness not to be wasteful and ultimately to respect the animal and use every part of it, which is a philosophy my dad taught me. I don’t think anything is underutilised or underappreciated. In the last five years, with the rise of gourmet burgers, something as humble as mince or sausages aren’t generic or basic anymore. It’s now elevated to another level of quality where it’s not just trim and scraps used to mince meat for sausages or burgers. It’s whole primals of meat.

Best perks of the job?

A few things. I’ve never not eaten well. The other perk is this incredible network of people that I’ve met and who have become a mixture of clients, suppliers, and friends.

What’s your favourite restaurant to eat meat in?

It’s impossible to answer this question for commercial reasons. There are a lot of incredible steak focused restaurants in this country. To name of few, Rockpool Bar & Grill, Firedoor, San Telmo, Grossi Florentino, Blackbird, and many others. But if I have to be brutally honest, it’s definitely at home amongst my 1 of 11 BBQs that I’ve amassed. All I need is some wood, some charcoal, and a great piece of meat.

What’s your favourite thing about the Good Food & Wine Show!?

My favourite thing is the energy and the buzz that’s created on the back of all of these like-minded people who have a love for food all under the one roof, enjoying the many different experiences and opportunities that the Good Food & Wine Show offers. It’s amazing that the general public is able to meet producers to listen and learn about food. From a sensory point of view, the tastings, talks, demos, and all these activations are ultimately there to stimulate, entertain and educate people on food, wine, and the whole experience of enjoying food and wine.

What’s next for Vic’s Meat?

The release of my first book is in November this year. It has 110 recipes and a beautiful accessibility about it. You can sit there on a rainy afternoon and delve in and out of it. And in September/October next year Victor Churchill is opening in New York. It’s exciting and nerve-racking, but ultimately an amazing challenge and opportunity to take a business and a brand that we love and are so proud of to a city that’s considered to be the biggest stage in the world for food, wine, and business.

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