Photo by Lindsay Pugnali
Jason Fox will be the manager of the new Fleisher's shop in Park Slope, Brooklyn. He recently sat down with the Butcher's Case to talk about the new shop, his background in the food world, and his pick for the most underrated cut of meat.
The Butcher's Case: How did you decide to become a butcher?
Jason Fox: I have a history of working in the food industry. I worked in my grandfather's deli when I was growing up, and I was a food photographer and food stylist for several years. And the more I worked with food, the more I realized I wanted to open my own restaurant in Brooklyn. I wanted it to be nose-to-tail and seasonal, and I wanted to do my own butchering. I knew about Fleisher's, so last winter I took their eight-week butchery course and apprenticeship.
During that time, the restaurant plans fell through. I was talking to Josh [Applestone, Fleisher's co-owner] about it, and he said they were planning to open a shop in Park Slope, and he asked if I wanted to run it. I couldn't refuse an opportunity like that.
TBC: So when did you really know that you'd made the leap and you were doing what you were meant to do?
JF: I was driving home from Fleisher’s after cutting all day, literally still covered in blood, and instead of being disgusted I realized I really loved the smell.
TBC: You're going to be running the Brooklyn shop—which makes sense, because you already live in Brooklyn, right?
JF: Yes, I live in Bushwick. I’ve been commuting back and forth to Kingston, but after a long day of hauling and cutting meat, carrying rounds and arm chucks, you want to be in your own home. My boyfriend is in Brooklyn, my dogs are in Brooklyn, so it's worth the long trip back home. So, I'm looking forward to the commute from Bushwick to Park Slope. It should be much better!
TBC: It seems that everyone at Fleisher’s has a specialty. Some people focus on charcuterie or creating sausage recipes. What is your forté?
JF: People in the Slope tend to be very busy, so I've been working a lot in the kitchen with various cuts of meat to come up with new additions for our line of prepared foods. Cottage pie, meat loaf, meatballs, a sausage pie. The sausage pie was my biggest challenge, but I was able to marry the two textures (sausage and flaky pie crust) by creating a mustard béchamel. It’s delicious, and a recipe I’m really proud of, but there are going to many options to choose from.
TBC: Everyone on the Fleisher’s staff seems to have been a vegetarian at one time or another, too. What about you?
JF: I was a vegetarian for 16 years, but I really felt like I was missing out after awhile. I was doing a lot of cooking for other people and it was often meat-based, so I started to feel left out. I felt like I couldn’t be a good cook if I didn’t start to eat meat.
TBC: Let's talk a bit about the Brooklyn shop. If someone walks in, will they see you cutting meat, just like in the Kingston shop?
JF: Yes, that's the Fleisher's way, to work out in the open. You'll see us cutting every day for the case.
TBC: The Kingston shop is only open on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. What about the Brooklyn shop?
JF: We'll be open every day except Monday.
TBC: Okay, lightning round questions: What's your favorite steak to eat?
JF: You can't beat a rib-eye. One rib-eye, an inch and a half thick, will feed two people. Personally, I like it very rare.
TBC: What's the most underrated or overlooked cut of meat?
JF: People tend to be scared of oxtails. But they're very affordable, they have a really beefy flavor, and they're easy to cook, because you just put them in the oven and braise them. If people would try them, I think they'd be surprised how good they are, and how simple they are to prepare.
TBC: Favorite ingredient?
JF: Stock, I use it in everything. We sell every kind at Fleisher’s—from lamb to duck.
TBC: Meal that you would make for your boyfriend after a fight?
JF: Lamb anything, potato anything—he’s Irish.
TBC: Favorite side dish?
JF: Roasted Brussels sprouts with Fleisher's bacon, made crispy in a cast-iron skillet. We are even growing Brussels sprouts in our garden, I love them so much.
TBC: Favorite type of customer?
JF: Little old ladies. They always know exactly what they want!
TBC: Favorite technique that you have learned at Fleisher’s?
JF: I didn’t know anything about the Jaccard meat tenderizer. It really does the trick for notoriously chewy steaks like London broils and flatirons. It has 48 flat blades, like little needles, that puncture the flesh and shorten the muscle fibers. It’s really eye-opening.
TBC: Anything to add?
JF: Just that I'm really excited about the new shop. We're going to have a really good time. We love what we do, and the mood in the shop will be very happy, very positive. I think people will notice it right away.
The Brooklyn branch of Fleisher's is scheduled to open on Sept. 22, at 192 Fifth Avenue, between Sackett and Union Streets.