Are Butchers the New Rock Stars of the Culinary World?

To that end Ramsay raises and processes his own turkeys, pigs and other animals, and he also hunts and processes wild meat, everything from venison and wild boar to squirrels and hares.

One of the frequent guests on The F Word is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, a British chef and food writer and a major advocate of the "real food" movement. With Ramsay and Fearnley-Whittingstall, the killing and processing of animals is a regular part of The F Word, one of the few food shows that doesn't shy away from graphically showing where meat actually comes from and how it gets to the table.

It's that type of food show that is spearheading this change in the image of the butcher, along with growing interest in humanely and locally raised meat.

But the star status of celebrity butchers is not just a modern phenomenon. I was recently reading a translation of the Chuang Tzu, an ancient Taoist text, and came across a fascinating section in the chapter "Mastery of Nurturing Life." In it there are several paragraphs about a man who is butchering an ox for a king, and the king marvels at the skill of the butcher. Like the Argentinian butchers in the YouTube videos, the carcass just seems to fall apart without effort because of the butcher's tremendous level of skill.

When the king expresses his admiration, the butcher says it's not just his skill but also the spirit with which he uses the skill.

"A good butcher changes cleavers every year because of damage," the butcher explains to the king, according to Thomas Cleary's translation. "A mediocre butcher changes cleavers every month...I've had this cleaver for 19 years now, and it has cut up thousands of oxen; yet its blade is as though it had come newly from the whetstone."

The butcher explains that the joints have spaces in between, whereas the edge of the cleaver blade has no thickness, so when it is put into the space between the joints, the meat comes off the carcass without effort. "This is why the edge of my cleaver is still as sharp" as ever, he tells the admiring king.

Zen and the art of butchering. It seems celebrity butchers have been around a long, long time. It's nice to see them making a comeback.

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