An ever-increasing cost of produce and patrons’ expectations for quality & value for money continue to seriously challenge contemporary kitchens.
On the pub scene especially, where a good piece of steak has always been king, the rising prices of meat are driving Chefs to find new ways to serve meat-loving patrons without breaking the bank.
One of the ways to respond to these growing pressures is to look beyond primary cuts. Chefs are increasingly looking for clever uses of more versatile and great-tasting non-primary cuts.
Producers are also responding to this need by promoting new or forgotten cuts, educating Chefs and customers on their benefits, including price, flavour, ability to create a point of difference and many more. In some cases, it even inspires them to innovate. For example, Aus-Meat Ltd, in co-operation with Chaco Meat Co, recently developed Torello rosé veal, which they showcased at the Lollaproducer event in Sydney’s Carriageworks. The meat is a young Australian beef product created from unwanted male calves born into the dairy industry. The result is a product that sits comfortably between veal and beef and utilises a previously undervalued product at a great price.
The trend is also embraced by pan-Asian inspired venues. Jackie Park (ex-Koi Dessert Bar) and Chef Aum Touchpong Chancaw (ex-Longrain) have just launched Moon in Darlinghurst which plates up European-Thai dishes, featuring slow-cooked secondary cuts, packed with flavour. During lunch service expect familiar Thai street food, but in the evening Aum steps it up with a green curry of much-underutilised beef cheeks, eggplant, fried anchovies and basil, which is topped with caviar balls made from egg yolks. Another clever approach is 72-hour braised beef ribs with a tamarind glaze, crisp eschalot, semi-dried tomato and watercress.
Further innovative thinking comes from Chef Luke Powell, from LP’s Quality Meats in Sydney, with full-flavoured secondary-cut dishes such as grilled flank steak with smoked bone marrow vinaigrette. Then there are roasted lamb cap strips from Pinbone’s Mike Eggert and Grosvenor Hotel, with a made-for-winter hearty pot roasted brisket.
Although revisiting underused cuts is great for reducing costs, what also makes patrons happy is provenance. Customers are becoming increasingly aware and interested in where their food comes from. If splashing out on a prime-cut or even an unusual secondary cut, they will want to know how the cattle or sheep was raised, where the cut is from, and the way it’s cooked. It’s these factors that are increasingly defining red-meat consumption.
Anything from a beautiful cut of wagyu, destined for a share plate, to a bavette steak or slow-cooked brisket is what will keep keen carnivores coming back for more. Add some interesting details and a point of difference and meat-focused dishes will continue to spark diners’ curiosity.
For example, also represented at Lollaproducer was Flinders Island Meat which produces milk-fed lamb, saltgrass lamb and Angus beef, alongside pasture-fed wallaby, on the remote and pristine Bass Strait island.
Flinders Island wallaby has been served at three-hatted restaurants such as Attica, Vue de Monde, and Jacques Reymond. Ben Shewry, Shannon Bennett and Jacques are all passionate about the Flinders Island products as are Sydney Chefs Peter Gilmore, Colin Fassnidge and Kylie Kwong who offers her delicious wallaby tail dish with black bean and chilli at Billy Kwong. Pub and club Chefs who are looking to stand out as a bit different are also beginning to take notice.
While some of the dishes and ingredients mentioned might be a bit “out there”, any Chef worth his or her salt will always be on the lookout for fresh ideas and constant menu inspiration, while keeping an eye on the all-important bottom line. And as “necessity is the mother of invention”, the innovation and reinvention of meat dishes shows no signs of slowing down.