There aren’t a lot of old-school butchers left in Colorado, but the tradition remains in a few specialty shops, where butchers make precision cuts to create every type of meat to meet the culinary demands of their patrons. In Boulder, a city with a well-established farm-to-table ethos, residents come to Blackbelly Butcher Shop and Market for all their butchering needs.
Chef Hosea Rosenberg opened Blackbelly in 2011, having earned fame as the season five winner of Top Chef. What began as a modest catering operation in now a pride and joy of the Boulder foodie scene. It’s all thanks to Rosenberg’s fresh and detailed approach. “I have a math and science background, so I like things to be logical,” he said. “But cooking is also an art, so I try to find the balance between what makes sense and what excites the senses.”
Chefs often choose to elevate less-popular meat cuts for variety. It shows off their skills and reduces food costs, but those cuts come from several animals whose trendier cuts were sold elsewhere. The challenge at Blackbelly is its use of whole animals, one at a time. “When we buy a whole cow (which we do every week), we have to make smart decisions on where the meat goes — what to use first, and what can be held,” Rosenberg said. “Then we have to be very creative with all of the pieces to make sure we are going to be profitable on so much product.”
His creative yet scientific approach allows Blackbelly’s customers to take home some of the best meats available anywhere in Colorado. From custom cuts of meat to fresh-made sausages, salumi and charcuterie, everything is high quality and speaks to Rosenberg’s own approach to local ingredients. He embraces the term locavore, and sources nearly every ingredient accordingly. “From the beef to the broccoli, we try our hardest to find the best and freshest ingredients. That means we create relationships with farmers, ranchers and artisans. To me, it’s the right way to cook.”
Could the art of butchery be making a comeback? It’s possible. Rosenberg’s locavore style certainly isn’t new to Boulder County, and the food scenes in communities across the country are finding different ways to buy smarter and relish every bite that comes off their plates, whether in a restaurant or at home. “I think the food scene everywhere is growing. The public in every city in this country is getting more food savvy and smarter when it comes to eating. We are all reaping the rewards of this cultural shift.” Though, Rosenberg admits that the art of butchery is in decline. “This is one of the dying skills in our country that is hopefully coming back. If someone wants to be a ‘real’ butcher, they need to spend a lot of time working for one. The only way to get good is through a lot of practice.”
In the meantime, Rosenberg continues to offer up incredible cuts of meat to Boulder patrons, and hopes to soon open a second location in Denver. Blackbelly fans may be able to bring home a cookbook with recipes from the Top Chef very soon. Until then, you can stop in to pick up something amazing for dinner, and while you’re there be sure to say hi to the man behind the operation and take a moment to appreciate the lost art that went into it.
“I love the connection to the guests. Food should be more than fuel. It is memory, it is emotion, it is happiness,” Rosenberg said. “If you connect with someone on an intimate level with the food you cooked, that is a great joy. And once it’s eaten, it is gone forever. It’s a very fleeting thing.”