Pursuitist traveled on her first food sourcing trip about a year ago, which included many Park City celebrity chefs and sous chefs. We went to mountainous Utah sheep and cattle ranches, where we learned a very important lesson: these chefs receive absolutely the finest cuts of meat for their high end restaurants and guests. Pursuitist wondered ever since then, about the quality the rest of us receive and how we, the non-celebrity chef/sous chef population, could ever receive the product excellence those other chefs are given. It turns out, the Pursuitist was not the only one who has pondered this question.
Rare Gourmet Meats, founded by two women, Debbie Rocker and Shelly Youree, had also thought about this, and because Debbie’s Los Angeles family had been in the meat business (Rocker Brothers Meat And Provisions) for the past fifty years, they did something about it.
Rare Gourmet Meats fills a rare gourmet niche, as it sells to high end/ high taste consumers as well as to restaurants – a rarity in the field of artisanal meats. Not only does the company sell the highest end, restaurant quality meats to consumers, Debbie and Shelly have been educated, both practically and philosophically, in the harmonics of taste balance, and in the consistent creation of perfect state meat.
Pursuitist was fortunate to have a meaty conversation with the Debbie and Shelly, as we discussed the sensory meanings and perfect state concepts that translate into the exceptionally pure taste of their products
Pursuitist: What makes the cuts of meat from Rare Gourmet Meats so unique?
Shelly Youree: Rare Gourmet Meats come from the finest ranches in North America. The animals are raised according to the highest humane handling standards, fed an all-natural diet and live in comfortable, low stress environments. They are never given antibiotics or hormones. Another extremely important aspect is the meat maintenance process. Our meats are maintained by well-established professionals who know how temperature, humidity, aging (wet and dry) handling and cutting practices all have a tremendous impact on flavor. Our meats typically are cut and packed the day of or the day before local delivery or shipping.
Pursuitist: How does Rare Gourmet Meats work with clients?
Debbie Rocker: We act as fine meat concierges.
Our passion is in providing clients with the best quality center-of-the-plate meats they can eat day in, day out. They are passionate about food and dining, so they call us to go over their orders. It is one of our favorite parts of the business. We talk about their likes and dislikes, what they truly enjoy. Make sure we answer any questions about certain cuts and then make recommendations based on what meats will exceed their expectations.
We also take clients through seasonal selections, and some of Rare’s special cuts that up until now, only chefs have had access to.
Pursuitist: So, you often suggest specific cuts of meat to match the seasons?
Shelly Youree: We absolutely keep the seasons in mind when making recommendations. This is one of the reasons we have several featured packages on the Rare Gourmet Meats site.
For instance, people are usually thinking about grilling and barbecues in the late spring and summer, so Rare Gourmet Meats puts together special BBQ packages that feature the meats our clients usually enjoy grilling most. Burgers, ribs, and chicken are always popular in the summer months as are ground meats. We serve several different very special custom beef blends, including dry aged ground chuck, grass-fed and Wagyu. Rare Gourmet Meats also offers whole deboned Jidori chicken and fresh turkey selections.For Fall and Winter, we recommend game birds because they are in season.
In Winter, we often suggest braising meats, such as Osso Buco and short rib. Spring of course is lamb season, but throughout the year, beef is absolutely the king of meats at Rare Gourmet. We also offer exotic meats such as venison, bison, and boar upon request.
Pursuitist: Can you mention some of the restaurants that currently serve your selections?
Debbie Rocker: A few restaurants of note that use our meats are Bestia, Redbird, Terroni, Petrossian, Republique, Alma, Soho House, Cecconi and Eveleigh.
Pursuitist: Obviously, you both have a passion for steak and other artisanal meats. Please tell us about what made you both start Rare Gourmet.
Debbie Rocker: My family has been in the meat business for more than 50 years, so this business is in my blood. My family has provided meat for some of the best chefs in the world. To do that well, one has to exceed expectations because a successful chef has an uncompromising commitment to quality.
When it comes to food, especially meat, I’m a quality extremist. This is an amazing time to be in the industry because more attention is being dedicated to where food comes from, how it is raised, what it is fed. I’ve personally worked for years advocating for more humane animal practices in our industry.
And in working with Shelly, we felt that it was time for someone to bridge the gap between restaurant quality meats and those available at retail. That’s what we do at Rare Gourmet Meats. We bring the best restaurant quality meat right into the home.
Shelly Youree: I’m a lawyer who loves food. My family are farmers and ranchers, mostly in Southern Oklahoma. When I met Debbie and tasted the meats she was offering to her chefs, I was floored. I had never understood why the steaks I bought at retail didn’t taste like the steaks I ate in fine restaurants.
It was a constant frustration because I always bought the finest prime meats I could find from butchers and high end gourmet markets, but the fact was that there just wasn’t a resource for that level of quality meat. Now, with Rare Gourmet Meats, there is.
Pursuitist: How does dry ageing meat add flavor?
Debbie Rocker: In a true dry age room, meat is exposed to the air in a protected, temperature, and humidity controlled environment. These unique conditions allow the meat to age, causing the muscle and fat to blend, simmering together into this fabulously rich and ultra flavorful cut of meat.
Pursuitist: And…what is the perfect state?
Shelly Youree: Meat in a perfect state means that the natural juices, the fat and protein are blending together in absolute harmony. Obtaining the perfect state is different for each cut of meat. For each cut, we determine the best timing based on mass, density, marbling and fat cover.
Pursuitist: Dinners and fine meals play such a big role in the holiday season. What would Rare Gourmet Meats suggest to its clients for the upcoming end of the year holidays that would make for a memorable, one of a kind dinner?
Debbie Rocker: When we serve our clients, we often recommend what we enjoy eating most during holiday meals. Of course, everyone at the Thanksgiving table will be expecting a turkey.
BUT, I like the idea of bringing turkey up to the next level by serving a fresh heritage breed or organic bird. And it never hurts to experiment a bit! Our birds are smoked low and slow using Texas post oak wood.
In addition to turkey, our meat of choice for the center of the table would be a prime export rib, naturally raised and dry aged. For the prime rib, Rare Gourmet ages the meat 21 days, and then trims away the crusty outer age to reveal succulently well-marbled, crimson colored prime beef underneath. Our Rare Gourmet butchers then carefully cut the bones from the meat, and tie them back on for roasting.
Many of our clients like to serve Chateaubriand for Christmas dinner, and that’s okay with us. In fact, we really love our 100% pasture raised grass-fed tenderloin for roasting. Our grass-fed beef stands up flavor wise to any of the finest prime tenderloins that we sell.
A lot of our clients also enjoy the idea of serving a goose at Christmas. It’s a pure old world tradition that seasonally makes sense. If there is any time to prepare a goose, the end of year is when to do it.
Pursuitist: The general public by and large has forgotten what great meat tastes like. Yet, people always know real quality when they sample it. Can you explain some of the natural processes that go into the feed, and the growing of the cattle that make Rare meats taste beyond good?
Debbie Rocker: You said it in your question – natural processes. Allowing animals to mature at their natural rate of growth, allowing them to feed on their natural diet (grasses) and then supplementing them with feed that supports their natural growth process. Not using drugs to promote growth or stave off illness puts the onus on the ranchers to provide spacious, comfortable and natural living environments for these animals. All in all, well-fed, compassionately raised animals always provide the healthiest and finest tasting meats.
Online at www.raregourmetmeats.com