‘Ask the Butcher’ TV series puts top quality meat on a pedestal

Jon Condon, 21/03/2013


Anthony Puharich will host the 'Ask the butcher' series on Foxtel's Lifestyle FOOD ChannelOne of Australia’s best known butchers will host an absorbing six-part television series devoted solely to meat, starting next Tuesday.

Fifth-generation Sydney wholesaler and retailer Anthony Puharich will compare the ‘Ask the Butcher’ series, airing on Foxtel’s Lifestyle FOOD cable channel from next Tuesday night.  

The Puharich family’s Sydney retail butchery, Victor Churchill’s, in the inner Eastern suburb of Woollahra, is widely regarded as the best retail meat outlet in the country. See Beef Central’s earlier profile, “Is this the world’s best butcher shop?” here.

Anthony will take viewers on a journey across the length and breadth of Australia, as well as to New Zealand and Japan, in a quest to unearth the story behind some of the best animal protein around.    

While covering a range of red and white meats, the six-part series is heavily laced with beef content, including an entire episode devoted to Wagyu, another exploring veal, and a third looking at beef in general – the distinctions between grass and grainfed, dry versus wet aged, the significance of marbling and other topical points of interest.

Each week a famous Australian celebrity chef will do a guest spot, converting the raw material into a creative and beautifully crafted dish. The talent will include Neil Perry, Kylie Kwong, Matt Moran, and Peter Gilmore, whose Sydney restaurant, Quay, is currently rated in the top 30 in the world.

Sydney's Neil Perry is one of the celebrity chefs appearing on the 'Ask the Butcher' TV series, starting Tuesday night Many are customers of the Puharich’s Vic Premium Meats wholesale business, which supplies a host of Sydney and Melbourne’s top restaurants.

“The series has been 18 months in the making – a massive undertaking from research, through to shooting each episode and editing all the footage,” Anthony told Beef Central yesterday. “It took a lot of input from a lot of different people.”

Filming alone took three months from September.

“The most important thing for me is that the industry gets some value out of it; telling the magnificent production stories behind some of the best known meat brands in the country,” Anthony said.

Earlier last year, Anthony featured in a masterclass episode of MasterChef, explaining the virtues of red meat to foodies in their hundreds of thousands who follow the popular TV show.

That led to discussions with Foxtel and the deal to prepare and host the ‘Ask the Butcher’ series – significantly, one of only two new shows commissioned by the cable TV network for 2013.

“It’s fundamentally about the industry and the passion of the farmers behind our best meat products,” Anthony said.

The first episode of the series is based on beef, followed by others for lamb, pork and cured meats, Wagyu, and poultry and game.

“The key theme in the first episode is unravelling some of the misconceptions and misunderstandings about beef,” Anthony said.

The 30-minute episode looks at, and indeed, celebrates, the distinctions between grass and grainfed product. The crew travelled to Tasmania’s idyllic northwest, where John Bruce, one of the suppliers of Greenham’s now-legendary Cape Grim grassfed beef brand shows Anthony around his farm, overlooking Stanley’s famous Knob and the Tasman Sea.

Footage was shot on John Bruce's idyllic coastal property near Stanley, in Tasmania's Northwest. John is pictured with Cape Grim program director, Peter Grenham Jr.  “From a visual point of view, it ticks all the boxes in terms of what consumer need to understand about what makes high quality grassfed meat: excellent pastures, consistent rainfall and careful husbandry and pasture management,” Anthony said.

Contrasting with this is a segment filmed at Rangers Valley feedlot near Glen Innes, where the grainfed production system, what goes into the ration, and how cattle are managed is explained in detail by managing director, Don Mackay.

The fact that all cattle start on grass, with only the final finishing period varying from one production system to another is part of the message, as is the significance of marbling in beef.

During the episode, celebrity chef Neil Perry shares his top five tips on how to grill a piece of beef.

My Kitchen Rules guest judge and noted chef, Colin Fassnidge, also has a segment, sharing his knowledge about the use of secondary cuts, showcasing a braised beef brisket recipe.

A veal segment in another episode involved a visit to a top producer in Western Australia, while a lamb segment was filmed with Thomas Foods International’s Darren Thomas in South Australia, and a segment on venison was shot in New Zealand.

An entire second episode is based on Wagyu beef, incorporating a trip to Japan to visit with legendary Wagyu cattle breeder Shogo Takeda, who has supplied much of the Wagyu genetics used in Australia. Mr Takeda describes the reverence in which the Japanese hold Wagyu, and the animals’ historical significance.

The film crew visited Shogo mTakeda's farm in rural Japan to learn more about the origins of Wagyu beef“The episode celebrates the impact that the Wagyu has made on the Australian cattle industry in what is a remarkably short period of time, in delivering a product now regarded without challenge as the best beef in the world,” Anthony said.

Victorian breeder David Blackmore talks about his early introduction to Wagyu, and how the industry has grown to where it is today. Marbling is also explored in greater detail, as are some of the newer terms being used across beef like dry-aging and wet aging.

Sydney chef Peter Gilmore flexes his muscles with the Wagyu cooking demonstration, sharing a unique recipe with viewers, after talking about the importance and significance of Wagyu in his restaurant, Quay.

“The entire series shows off all four corners of Australia for what it is: a spectacular, scenic landscape which is second to none in producing high quality meat,” Anthony said.

“Some of the locations we visited were jaw-dropping, and I’m sure viewers will respond to the visual feast that goes with the commentary,” he said. “It underpins the whole clean and green image that the Australian meat industry relies so heavily on. I don’t think we are yet doing a good enough job of celebrating that.”

If it does nothing else, Anthony said he hoped the TV series helped foodies and consumers everywhere build a greater appreciation of what goes into producing the incredible quality beef or lamb that Australia is so famous for.

“There is still a big disengagement between the consumer with a nice piece of beef on their barbecue, and the effort and care that goes into producing it,” he said.

“As a business, we’ve always put our suppliers on a pedestal, but the broader community gives most of the kudos and the credit to the chefs, or people like me who sell meat at wholesale or retail. But a lot more of that credit belongs with the producers themselves, and this series helps deliver that.”

A 90-minute compilation of the six episodes will be put together and sold and marketed as a DVD, both here and overseas. Other countries may also see the series via cable TV, whether that be the UK and Europe, New Zealand, or North America.

  • ‘Ask the Butcher’ will air on six consecutive Tuesday nights, starting March 26, at 8.30pm on Foxtel’s Lifestyle Food Channel [118]. Repeat scheduling over the following week can be found in the Foxtel program guide.



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