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The Butcher: A Forgotten Artist

When people think of artwork or an artist, normally, they picture Michael Angelo painting the Sistine Chapel, or Beethoven pounding away on his piano; however, there is one art form that many wouldn’t even think about until they eat it: butchery. It is an art form that has almost died out because of macro factory farms and processing plants or inexperienced “wannabe” butchers claiming they know the ancient process.

 

In France, you will find quite a few of these experienced butchers. With these people, butchery runs in their blood. The knowledge is passed down from father to son, father to son. When you watch an experienced butcher work, it’s the same as watching Michael Angelo carve out David piece by piece or every brush stroke Da Vinci put into the Mona Lisa. These people aren’t those imitation butchers that cut a piece of meat just any way from a carcass, but they know exactly which area of the meat to cut to get the best piece and know exactly how to prepare it before cooking.

Arnaud Carre—owner, butcher, and head chef of Arno’s Butcher & Eatery—came from a long lineage of professional butchers—5 generations to be exact. He grew up in Brittany, France watching his father carve away on many different carcasses with such delicacy. Arnaud came from an era where it was very common to follow your father’s footsteps and rarely did one wander far from the beaten path. Young Arnaud would travel around France and become an apprentice under the best butchers for no salary, only food and shelter just because he wanted gain the knowledge. Never did young Arnaud know that the skills and knowledge that his father had passed down to him would, eventually, lead him to be one of the best in the world at his craft.

“Those old-school French guys worked hard at the butcher block and came up with simple, delicious ways to cook some of these hard-won cuts — again, using what was cheap, what was leftover, what was around. These aren’t simple sirloins or porterhouses or T-bones, and the differences are not just a matter of translation. For all their flavor, these steaks demand more from [a] butcher.”—Anthony Bourdain[1] (wrote an article about French butchers and Arnaud Carre)

arnobutcherandeatery

Arnaud has had his dips and dabbles in some of the best restaurants in the world. He opened up one of the best butcheries in New York during the late ‘90s early 2000s under the name, The French Butcher. It had received much attention due to the way Arnaud prepared his meats. The picture on the left depicts a younger Arnaud at his butchery in downtown New York City with some of his delicate beef cuts. (picture taken by Rebecca Cooney of The New York Times) Also, he worked as the butcher at the famous French restaurant in New York named Les Halles. Les Halles was run by executive chef, author, and television personality Anthony Bourdain.

He spent 15 years in New York spreading his artwork and passion to hungry meat-lover Americans before he decided that he wanted to take on new challenges. Arnaud moved to Thailand—a country where beef eaters are hard to come by. Most Thais would choose chicken or pork over beef most days of the week. There is no proof of this, but I think that Thais don’t like beef because the way that they cure the beef in Thailand. Some beef is still fresh off the farm being air dried for 2-3 days before it is sold to the markets. Doing this makes for a subpar product.

Arnaud knew that there was a market here in Thailand for experienced butchers. He wants to change the mindset about Thai cuisine and prove to Thais that beef can be just as appetizing as pork or chicken. So, Arnaud and his friend Khun Supanit started Arno’s Butcher and Eatery. It has gained much attention within the Thai community very quickly. It has been open for only 6 months and there is almost a 3 week waiting list for a table to eat at their restaurant.

Arno’s Butcher and Eatery is not just like any steak joint in Bangkok. The customers are able to choose which meat they want to eat by going to the meat case just like shopping at the supermarket. Arnaud will then ask you a few questions about your preferences like “Do you like fat or no fat?” or “How tender do you like your meat?”. This way Arnaud will know exactly which piece of meat he will prepare for your perfect dinner.

arnobutcherandeatery

We at Hungry Hub tried to get some of Arnaud’s secrets about how he prepares his meats, but that was like “pulling teeth.” Some of his recipes have been passed down through his family for generations, some dating over 90 years old. There was no way he was going to give up those precious recipes for the whole world to know. He did tell us that he ages his beef up to 45 days and if it is a real exceptional piece of meat, then he will age it for more than that.

 

We asked if he is the one that is back in the kitchen cooking. He explained that he doesn’t do that much anymore because he doesn’t have much time. “Cutting and preparing the meat is almost, if not more important than the cooking itself. I have nobody that I trust enough to cut the meats and prepare for the cooking. This is why I am here every night cutting the meats and preparing them to be cooked.”

Arno’s Butcher and Eatery doesn’t just have beef. They supply customers with a wide variety of products at surprisingly low prices: fish, chicken, pork, oysters, river prawns, Norwegian salmon, Tuna, lobster, blue lobster. Arnaud said that the porterhouse and ribs are the signature dishes of the restaurant, and those are what many customers choose when dining.

The tomahawk and t-bone steaks start out at 1,200thb/kg and 1,500thb/kg for ribeye. This is by far the cheapest place you will find this quality in Bangkok. They also sell great sides to compliment your meat like baked potato, cheese-baked spinach, French fries, and more. Further, they have imported some great French wines that go very well with your meal.

Business is not slowing down at Arno’s Butcher and Eatery. Every week it keeps getting better and better. Arnaud stated that the night before our interview that they broke the week day record for dinners with 165. This means that everyone in the restaurant is working more efficiently. The staffs in the kitchen are getting used to cooking and their muscle memory is getting better. The hosts and servers are getting more efficient at table management to maximize the guests.

In the closing remarks of our interview, Arnaud stated something about life that relates to every person, and I will share it with you:Arno'sbutcherandEatery

“In life I succeed as much as I fail. You have to accept that you failed, but what counts, is how fast you get up. Understand that failure is not necessarily a bad thing because you learn [which way] doesn’t work. You learn that with any failure you always have a lot of things to learn. I think if we are that successful here [at Arno’s Butcher and Eatery] it’s because all the accumulation of failures and success brings us, [Khun Supanit] and I, to this place.”  (Picture taken from Bangkok Voice[2])

Go and check out Arno’s Butcher and Eatery on Naratiwat soi 20. Book your table through Hungry Hub because you need to reserve well in advance. If you are a Citi Bank credit card holder, you can gain 2X cash back points for every booking. For more information about Hungry Hub restaurants or any suggestions please feel free to contact me at [email protected]

 

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[1] Bourdain, Anthony. “Solving the Mystery of French Steak.” Solving the Mystery of French Steak. New York Times, 12 July 2000.                 Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

[2] Suranand. “Arnaud @Arnos / ชิมชิล-ชิล โดย สุรนันทน์ เวชชาชีวะ.” The Bangkok Voice. Voice Bangkok News, 4 Aug. 2015. Web. 19 Nov.      2015.