festivals and events
raves and reviews
the sweet scoop
the sweet scoop
You may not know the name Pat LaFrieda (yet!), but many New Yorkers have already sunk their teeth into products from the acclaimed Brooklyn-born meat wholesaler. From Shake Shack to Minetta Tavern, Union Square Cafe to The Spotted Pig, hundreds of top restaurants in NYC and across the country count on LaFrieda Meats for the best quality cuts and blends. And it’s been that way for nearly 100 years.
On April 9th, Food Network will debut Meat Men, a reality show that chronicles the daily grind of Pat, his father Pat Sr., and cousin Mark Pastore at their family owned and operated 35,000-sq. foot New Jersey factory. The series spotlights all the meaty magic and daily drama that comes with running the business, like creating custom burger blends for celebrity chefs, rushing emergency orders to restaurants across Manhattan, and the perils of long, vigorous days in the meat locker.
I recently spoke with the notorious master of meat to get the scoop on his new TV show and iPad app, where he goes when he’s craving steak or a juicy burger, and more.
Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors has been around for three generations and nearly 100 years. Was being in the family business always what you wanted to do?
I grew up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, and my dad wanted me to get out of the meat industry and not follow in his footsteps—ya know, working overnight in a 35-degree refrigerator. He sent me to private schools and college with the idea that I’d go off and do something different. After school, I became a stock broker and absolutely hated it, so it completely backfired. I rejoined my dad in the mid-90’s and asked if I could help grow the business, because I had worked with him since I was a kid on weekends and days off from school. Being part of the family business was something that I always loved and felt comfortable with.
What’s the best part of what you do everyday?
Like most people, the end of the day! But my favorite part of the job is fulfilling orders. Restaurants and chefs really depend on us to get them quality products when they need it—especially in Manhattan, where space is limited and they need a daily delivery, we try to make it easier for them. And when the last truck leaves and they all go out on time—that’s my favorite part of the day. Because we’re helping out their business.
Since summer barbecue weather is coming up, what’s your secret to perfectly grilling meat?
Cook your meat on a really hot grill. I always see people putting meat on a grill that’s not hot enough. Friends always wonder why I cook so fast. Well, the first thing I do is turn on the grill, and then I start prepping my food while it heats up to 450 degrees. Grilling should be quick and all the flavors intact. When you cook meat on a warm grill and close the cover, you’re almost steaming it.
You just launched the Big App for Meat on iPad. What made you want to create an app?
Over the years we faced a lot of questions about meat—about types of meat and where it comes from, things that were always so natural to us. Even veteran chefs would ask us questions. So, we wanted to make those answers available for everyone since people seem to want to know. We thought of doing it in a book, but knew people could be more interactive with the app technology. There are hours of video and hundreds of photographs to show you what types of meat are available and where on the animal those parts come from. (find out more about the app here)
Do you have a favorite cut of beef?
My favorite cut of beef is outside skirt steak, but my favorite kind of meat is lamb. There’s nothing like lamb leg and roasted lamb loin…
Your new show, Meat Men, debuts on Food Network next week. Congratulations! What can viewers expect to see when they tune in?
Yes, it’s exciting! The show is about our family business, but more what goes on behind the scenes as meat purveyors. When sixty to seventy percent of restaurants are meat-driven, all that meat has got to come from somewhere. The show is about where it comes from and how we portion and produce meat for restaurants and deliver it daily. The characters are hysterical—my cousin, my dad and I—as well as the way we interact and run our company. And you get to see a lot of chefs, which is really cool! Chefs that cook with our products and truly benefit from using our meats.
Was it strange having the cameras follow you around all the time?
It’s not that we didn’t get used to it, but it sometimes got old quickly. When you are suddenly followed around by cameras, you can’t do things you would normally do. Filming a reality show can be very difficult when you are really just trying to run a business. Sometimes you have to just turn off the audio, sit in a corner, shout out some profanity and then get back out there.
I understand the very talented chef Michael White will be on the premiere episode. How was working with him?
Yes, when Michael opened Ai Fiori on 5th Avenue, he really wanted a signature burger that would stand out on the lunch menu. We worked with him to create a blend of meat from scratch, and with just a few tweaks here and there, it was exactly what he wanted. It’s really cool to follow the chefs and see the ideas and desires of what they think is a great burger, and then execute it and get it to their restaurant.
If you could create a custom burger blend for any chef or celebrity, who would it be?
I’d love to make a signature burger for Bobby Flay. I’ve never worked with Bobby. I’m a big fan.
If you’re craving a great steak in New York City, where will you go?
A new restaurant that just opened called Perla. The chef, Michael Toscano, used to work at Babbo and Eataly’s Manzo. I had a rib steak there a couple days ago—and, I swear—it was one of the best steaks I’ve ever eaten. It’s a 109 rib steak aged for 56 days, has porcini powder dusted over the top, it’s just perfect.
How about your favorite burger?
I love Shake Shack, of course, but I really like my burgers seared on the outside and kind of rare on the inside. I go to The Spotted Pig for that—they use a grill as opposed to a flat top, and I love that grilled flavor. And the blue cheese over the top doesn’t hurt!
Any other must-try meat dishes you’ve had recently?
The goat’s neck at Kin Shop is a must. Everyone has to try this dish! Chef Harold Dieterle braises it and cooks it in a yogurt sauce. I’ve eaten it several times, it’s amazing—cooked perfectly and to die for.
Eataly is my go-to for LaFrieda Meats, but how else can people in the area buy some to prepare at home?
We’re very exclusive with retailers, but the easiest way to get our grinds and burgers is through Fresh Direct. However, Eataly is great because it’s a beautiful store, they have such an amazing staff and a huge selection. The butchers there will portion the meat for you anyway you like. It’s hard to find something like that in New York City.
To keep up with the latest from the meat maven himself, you can follow Pat on Twitter and Facebook. And be sure to tune into Food Network on April 9th at 11pm for the premiere of Meat Men. Thanks Pat and best of luck with the show!
Image courtesy of LaFrieda Meats