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Adventures in ethical meat: Part one

There is a reason why critics are so crazy about Robert Belcham’s restaurants Campagnolo and Fuel. There is love there…

By Mike Green , in Local Fare: From the farm to the restaurant , on March 14, 2010 Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

There is a reason why critics are so crazy about Robert Belcham’s restaurants Campagnolo and Fuel.

There is love there — both of the product used and in the process of creating food.

Award winning Chef Robert Belcham was kind enough to allow me access to the kitchen of Campagnello on a rainy Thursday morning to watch three of his chefs (Belcham is currently on holiday) create the cuts of meat that will be used in both restaurants.

Doug Lowey and Adam Vaughn work at a tub of Polderside Farm Chickens

During the morning, chefs Alvin Pillay (Campagnolo), Adam Vaughn and Doug Lowery (both of Refuel) showed me how they prepare the cuts for a wide range of items on both menus.

When I first arrived Adam and Doug were breaking down poultry from Chilliwack’s Polderside Farms.

Every bit of meat the restaurants use comes from local farms like Polderside and Slopping Hills where the animals were ethically raised, having foraged freely on the farmland without the use of antibiotics or hormones in their feed.

The result is a superior (and ethical) cut of meat that only gets more delicious in the hands of Belcham and his crew.

The feeling I got watching the chefs at work was that this was something old school, something special.

After Adam and Doug had broke the chickens down into cuts for Refuel’s now famous marinated-then-sous-vide-in-buttermilk-then-fried chicken, Alvin showed me something I had not seen before.

Growing up on Lake of the Woods, Ontario, an area densely populated with deer, I’d like to think I have had almost every cut of venison.  But what Chef Pillay was preparing was new to me.

He was taking meat off the neck of venison to use for the base of a bolognese sauce.

Chef Alvin Pillay working at some venison neck.

After a trip through the meat grinder the venison is slowly cooked for four hours in a bit of butter so that the connective tissue breaks down and the meat — so Pillay assures me — becomes most tender.  The venison meat is later mixed with onions and garlic that were slowly cooked in another pot. Combining the ingredients and simmering in a house-made tomato sauce — finished off by a cup of milk at a time — a rich game-based bolognese is made.

The venison itself is from a wild herd that lives on Sydney Island.  It doesn’t get any more natural.

Portions of fresh pasta sit in beds waiting for tonight's dinner service

(Continued in Adventures in ethical meat: Part two)

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