Culinary Classroom – Butchery and meat at Fairfax Meadow
The third Culinary Classroom session was one for the carnivores; a butchery and meat day with Fairfax Meadow in Derby. The location was a bit of a respite for our northern-based chefs, having travelled south for the previous sessions. The day was to be split into three sections; we were to start by having a tour of Fairfax’s impressive facilities, then on to a practical butchery demonstration and to finish with the Servest chefs whipping up some magic in the kitchen. Being a typically brisk January day; we were all eager to get started and to see where a lot of our meat comes from.
I, like many of the chefs, had never been inside a meat production facility on the scale of the one at Fairfax; so we were all really intrigued to see the process involved. The Servest chefs use Fairfax products on a daily basis so they were fascinated to see the journey the meat took from arriving into the facility to being delivered to their units. Once we were all adorned with all the relevant Health and Safety gear, we emerged from Fairfax’s boardroom looking like extras from the latest series of CSI and were ready to embark on the tour.
We were given a guided tour and managed to take in both the automated systems and also the more manual aspects of the butchery. We were all astounded with the speed and scale of the operation, with one butcher producing over 5,500 pieces of diced meat in a day. Likewise, the automated machines were extremely impressive; with precisely cut pieces of meat flowing out of them at a steady rate. During the tour we learnt that Fairfax produced over 1.5 million pigs in blankets for Christmas last year – by hand!
We were then shown where the meat arrives from all four corners of the world, and also where it is aged. Culinary inspiration was never far away, and the Culinary Classroom chefs were discussing various menu ideas amongst themselves.
The next phase of the day was a butchery session led by Jim, Fairfax’s butchery expert. Jim did a brilliant job of explaining the various cuts he was making and showing the chefs the order in which the cuts come in. Throughout this part, he butchered a whole lamb, half a cow, and a whole pig. It was really impressive to see the skill and speed in which Jim butchered the meat, explaining the nuances along the way. Very quickly, the various animals were in their culinary component parts and ready for the kitchen.
The final part of the day was a practical session in the kitchen. The chefs grouped up into threes and were tasked with coming up with a dish per chef. Chris Ince, Servest Chef Director, had previously raided his home cupboard (which, as you can imagine, isn’t your average cupboard!) and also bought various ingredients from a supermarket on the way to the session. Essentially, it was a Servest version of Ready, Steady, Cook – minus Ainslie Harriot, the red tomatoes and green peppers, and plus a passionate bunch of chefs. Soon the kitchen was a cacophony of chopping, searing and frying, with the chefs busily preparing their dishes.
What the chefs turned out in such a short period of time, with a random selection of ingredients and with shared facilities really was remarkable. Rhys Richardson, Servest Development Chef and Blue Arrow Chef of the Year 2015, commented on how impressed he was with the standard of the food. Being that the day revolved around meat, it really was carnivore heaven. Chris Ince finished the session by quickly preparing a dish of his own, enthusing the chefs with his enthusiasm and expertise.
That brought the day to an end, with the chefs leaving Fairfax with a much better understanding, and appreciation, of the ingredients they use every day. As part of the development programme, the chefs will devise new menu ideas and recipes with inspiration drawn from this Culinary Classroom session.