"Nose to Tail" is the title of an influential cookbook by English chef Fergus Henderson that has managed to bring the art of butchery back to the culinary forefront with one singular philosophy: use every part of the animal. For chef Travis McConnell, using every part of the animal is a matter of "respect for taking an animal's life," and he has adopted it as the guiding principle behind Butcher & Public, the restaurant and butcher shop he hopes to open by next spring. Many of you are familiar with Travis from his stints running the Capital Bar and Grill, where he helped develop what is still one of the tastiest menus in town, or perhaps from the pig roast he hosted last spring. My own introduction to Travis's food, particularly his Butcher and Public concept, was at the Bernice Garden Farmer's Market, where I ate what still remains one of my life's greatest sausage sandwiches. All along, everybody has been asking when the Butcher and Public storefront would open — and now we all have a chance to help make that happen.
I caught up with Travis this past weekend outside Stone's Throw Brewing where he and his wife Karla were heating up a couple of large cast-iron Dutch ovens to brown up links of homemade sausage. Between checking the fires and whipping up a spectacular fresh chimichurri, Travis let us in on some exciting news: Butcher and Public was jumping on the crowd-funding train with a Kickstarter project in order to raise a portion of the startup money he needs. He tells me he's got a spot in mind (although he isn't ready to reveal where it is), and the Kickstarter money will go to help buy the equipment needed for top-of-the-line meat processing and sausage-making.
McConnell is a journeyman of sorts — he's worked everywhere from Memphis to Portland with a stop off in Vermont for culinary school. Through his time in different kitchens, he fell in love with charcuterie and meat preparation, deciding to create his own restaurant concept around cured meats. Anyone who has tasted his cooking at the local markets knows how good his food is; a storefront will allow him to expand into a full service restaurant and butcher, serving fresh cuts along with prepared food — with a promise of possible Arkansas-branded prosciutto and other cured products in our future.
If you'd like more information on donating (including some pretty great prizes available) click here to visit Travis's Kickstarter page.