Faces of the Butcher’s Family
The summer season is synonymous with barbecue at De Laet & Van Haver. An event for 75,000 partygoers or a cozy barbecue with the family. A high-quality piece of dry aged meat is on the menu of almost every customer and we take care of that in our large artisan workshop Butcher’s Craft. John, production manager of fresh meat, is the man who, thanks to his many years of experience, ensures that that quality is always on your plate.
John is a real deboner at heart. He prefers to work with complete animals and large pieces of sirloin. Good thing too, it has been his daily activity since his 13th birthday. He does not want to reveal his real age, but we can say that he is now well over 50. John ran his own butcher’s shop for a while and especially gained a lot of experience at abattoirs and meat processing companies. That is how he came into contact with Luc De Laet. “In the slaughterhouse I boned the Belgian White Blue from farmer Raf Weemaes for Luc. Once finished boning I took it to the store. That’s how we got in touch.” John was looking for a new experience and it is around this period that Luc founded his wholesaler in the old butcher’s shop on the Mortselsesteenweg in Hove.
Luc De Laet: “John has an exceptional track record, which is why I did not hesitate to include him in my story.” John was appointed as the fresh meat production manager. He would take care of the dry age. Initially, John thought the hype about this would soon blow over. But he also had to quickly admit that it does have an impact on the meat. “As long as it’s done right, of course,” laughs John. “If you start with a bad base, the end result is always bad. That is why it is so important that we select our backs* ourselves and work with quality. By the way, with dry ageing you cannot shave every cow with the same brush. French varieties can be left hanging a little longer, they are really at their peak after 6 to 7 weeks. Italian varieties are best removed after 4 weeks. Longer actually makes little sense and only causes more loss. A Belgian White Blue has more volume and can hang for up to 9 weeks, but it certainly doesn’t need longer because then it becomes more difficult to bone it.” In general, John favors 3 to 5 weeks. When are the backs ready? That is mainly experience. “The structure of the meat, the bone content, the fat,…” After years, John does it by sight and at the slightest touch. John takes care of about 250 ridges every week. On average, there are 800 ridges to dry-age in the Butcher’s Craft.
Finally, we ask John what his favorite piece of meat is. A question he should not think too long about. “A côte à l’os from Holsteiner or Simmentaler. The taste that these dairy cows give off is the best there is.” For those who are wondering. After all that hard work, John easily eats a 1.2 kg côte à l’os on its own.
*Backs: the back of the cow from which the côte à l’os, entrecote, sixribs and ribeye are cut. The weight varies per breed, but you can easily reach 20 kg per back. More info about dry aging on page 7.