“Butcher to the stars” seems like a ridiculous title, but it’s what Pat LaFrieda, Jr., has certainly become. From profiles in Saveur, the Washingtonian, and many others, the third generation butcher has been at the forefront of a meat-heavy restaurant craze for the past few years thanks to his nearly celeb butcher status, providing cuts and blends for top chefs in New York from Michael White to April Bloomfield. Despite the spotlight, LaFrieda has kept a focus on what his family does best – providing quality meats and unrivaled service – by moving Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors from a 5,000 square foot Manhattan space to a 35,000 square foot warehouse in north New Jersey two years ago, and expanding the client list to over 600 customers. With an impressive selection of nearly 500 cuts and blends available, you can find LaFrieda meats in what seems like every big name restaurant in New York, including Shake Shack and Minetta Tavern.
The New York Restaurant Scene
Nowadays, LaFrieda is even a well-known outside the city lights of the Big Apple. Cameras follow him intently as part of the Food Network’s “Meat Men”, and his famous burger blends are available nationwide through U.S. Foods and Williams-Sonoma. Beginning butchers can learn to spot, and slice, cuts of meat using the Pat LaFrieda’s Big App for Meat iPad app, which offers over 200 photos and videos from the meat man himself. And he’s even become a familiar face at star-filled food and wine weekends, from the South Beach Wine & Food Festival to last weekend’s Meatopia. With a newly launched signature LaFrieda filet mignon sandwich now available at New York’s Citi Field, LaFrieda and his family are, appropriately, on a roll.
Q: What was it like growing up in a family of butchers?
A: It was hard. My father and grandfather were always at work, but great in the lessons I learned from them, work ethic and getting to eat great meat all the time.
Q: What would you be doing if you weren’t a meat man?
A: I would have continued my career as a soldier.
Q: Do you think you’ll encourage your children to carry on the business?
A: I would hope that their education would bring them to an easier life, however, it is a decision that I will let them make. After all, what business is easy?
Q: How many folks do you have on staff at your production facility?
A: We have an incredible staff of 105 at Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors.
Q: What’s a typical day for you?
A: I begin at my office at 2 p.m., working through emails and speaking to chefs about menu ideas. At 6 p.m., production begins at LaFrieda Meats and I oversee it until the last order is complete. At 6 a.m., I depart to home to catch up on business news, the economy and national security issues.
Q: What makes the production and the product at Pat LaFrieda really stand out from other meat purveyors?
A: We don’t pay attention to what anybody else does. That’s very important. My grandfather always trained us that way. One thing that I can certainly say however is that you can’t be successful in this business if you’re always taking long vacations, wasting time on the golf course, etc. You need to work on the ground with your team, slugging it out every day.
Q: You recently participated in Meatopia and are a regular at both the New York City and South Beach Wine & Food Festivals as well. What about these events appeals to you?
A: These events are our chance to have a lot of fun, spend good quality time with our customers and bring brand awareness to our company. We love participating in these events.
Q: What was it like for LaFrieda Meats to launch the filet mignon sandwich at Citi Field?
A: We did this for the Wilpons and for Citi Field. They are great people with great vision. It’s our first and only [retail] location, and seeing my grandfather’s name up there gives me pride that I have continued to make him proud.
LaFrieda Meats will present both the Meat Men dinner and the Blue Moon Burger Bash at next month’s New York City Wine & Food Festival, with Pat and his business partner Mark Pastore also hosting a butchery master class as part of the festival lineup. The first season of “Meat Men” will reair on Cooking Channel starting October 4.