Butcher-chef combination successful

The Fridge Butchery and Delicatessen owners, butcher Bodean Cowley (left) and chef Scott...
The Fridge Butchery and Delicatessen owners, butcher Bodean Cowley (left) and chef Scott MacDonald, hold cuts of meat outside their Alexandra store. Photo by Liam Cavanagh.
The Fridge Butchery and Delicatessen was the winner of this year's Central Otago Award for business excellence. Liam Cavanagh catches up with the pair, whose business is carving out a niche in meat.

A chef and a butcher from Central Otago who won a business award at the Central Otago Awards this year for their butchery agree most people love meat.

''Everyone loves it. It's just something everyone likes - not bagging [the] vegans and vegetarians,'' says chef and part-owner of The Fridge Butchery and Delicatessen Scott MacDonald.

Butcher and part-owner Bodean Cowley said it was ''caveman basics'' - it was how humanity evolved.

Some might argue differently but what is clear is that residents in Central Otago like their meat, and the butchers who serve it.

Mr Cowley said the pair were on a first-name basis with most of their customers.

The butcher-and-chef combination worked really well.

''It's actually quite good to know where everything comes from. None of the chefs I associate with ... really get the chance to do what I've done,'' Mr MacDonald said.

The business was first set up in Alexandra 11 years ago by Mark Wormald, who was joined by Mr MacDonald.

Mr Cowley joined the business seven years ago, eventually buying Mr Wormald's share, with Jenny and Murray Hughes investing in the business about three years ago.

Mr Cowley, who works in the Alexandra shop, did his butchery apprenticeship at Alexandra New World, with further training in Christchurch.

''I worked there [New World] after school and I enjoyed the joking and the fun, and the team environment.''

Mr MacDonald runs the Cromwell shop. He trained as a chef in Dunedin and Timaru, and has ''always loved cooking''.

The thing that excited them most about meat, they said, was eating it.

However it was not the excitement of it so much as the quality of it, Mr Cowley said.

''You see so much low quality. And for me, I'm a bit fussy about the little things.''

That fussiness, he said, followed through to what they sold - high quality, aged, and well-presented.

''We try to make it look better, and that's the only way we survive.''

Mr MacDonald said an enjoyable benefit of having a butchery for a business was being able to take home good cuts of meat to treat friends or share with family.

The look of the business was fluid - they worked with the space and layout of the shops, but the Alexandra shop looked like any of the narrow popular butcheries in Europe, he said.

Cuts of meat and what sold well was dictated by season - ribeye might be popular in the warmer months, but cuts of meat for slow cooking, like brisket or chuck steak, dominated the cooler months.

The butchery specialised in gourmet sausages, house-made salami and house-smoked salmon, and the more unusual - pickled tongue and pork brawn. They also sold fish, salads and lunches.

The response from the public has been positive.

''Everyone knows about us. Everyone in Alex know's about the shop because we've been here for so long,'' Mr MacDonald said.

Gastronomes and the elderly were their ''bread and butter'', as well as the lunch crowd.

They also supplied products to cafes and restaurants in Queenstown, Alexandra, Cromwell, and surrounds.

They were sought after by chefs in the area for ''little niche products'' they struggled to find somewhere else.

''We have a pretty good customer base in Dunedin,'' Mr Cowley said.

Operating a small butchery business alongside supermarkets was a competition they were never going to win, Mr Cowley said, but they were confident about the future of their business.

''We can't compete. We can't beat them, which is why we go for quality and customer service.''

liam.cavanagh@odt.co.nz

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