Bob Choquette: Operations Manager & Master Butcher.
What inspired you to become a butcher and open a shop?
I began my career working in the grocery retail industry on Vancouver Island. At the time, my brother-in-law worked in Winnipeg in the meat industry, and he happened to have a job opening that he then offered to me. I took the job and ended up moving to Calgary in 1980, where I started as an apprentice butcher. Eventually I worked my way up through the field, and was approached by a cattle rancher named Paul about 13 years ago to partner with him and open our own storefront using his meat. One thing led to another, and together we opened Second To None Meats!
What kick started the transition from Second to None Meats to Urban Butcher? What will be done differently and why?
Second To None Meats has been in business for 13 years and made it through the recession – but at this point, we felt there needed to be some kind of change. Our customers are why we exist, so we wanted to listen to their needs and respond accordingly. With the introduction of Chef Lancelot Monteiro from Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts and new additions to the store’s selection of high quality meat and products, it made sense to open a new store together under a new name.
We are really looking forward to offering lower prices and interesting new products that will help our customers become more confident and happy in their own kitchen.
What do you enjoy most about your craft, what interests you about it?
I look at myself as a creator of food, in a sense. What I really enjoy about butchery is that I can cut the key ingredient for a meal for one of our customers, and they can come back to tell me how much they enjoyed it. That’s a really important thing to me. The fact that I have the ability to create something for a person, a family, or a community that will bring them joy. I get a lot of comfort out of that.
How do you think everyday people can benefit from shopping at a butcher as opposed to a regular or big box grocery store?
At a butcher shop like Urban Butcher, you get a lot more personalized interaction with the people behind the counter. A lot of the time, customers will walk up to the counter and have no idea what they want. We’re going to offer them the inspiration and recipes to create something unique for dinner or use ingredients that they never knew how to cook prior. Largely, we want to re-incorporate the human aspect of food and cooking into the shopping experience.
Quality and consistency in what we sell is also very important to us, and all of our meat products are trimmed and aged appropriately. These are all things that big chains and huge stores don’t have the ability to guarantee. Not to mention the health benefits of shopping at a butcher – all of our meat is organic and naturally raised. Never mass-produced.
Is it hard to learn the ins and outs of meat? Do you have to be a pro to shop at UB?
It definitely helps if you know your stuff, but we understand that it can be hard to grasp onto the ins and outs of every cut of meat, what makes certain meat more tender, how to handle certain cuts, and so on. Shopping at the butcher can be a huge learning experience, and we want to help facilitate that for the average person who doesn’t know much about meat. All you need to shop at Urban Butcher is the willingness to ask questions! We want our customers to feel comfortable bringing in their cookbooks, telling us they have no idea what a certain cut of meat is, and letting us show them.
What is your favorite meat to cook, and your favorite meal to make with meat from your UB?
For me, there is nothing better than a good steak! In particular, ribeye… whether it’s for grilling or for a prime rib roast, the flavor of this meat is incredible. The cut comes from the front quarter of the animal, and the fat and marbling because of this really adds to the flavor and quality of this cut. In fact, ribeye steaks are our #1 seller!