I met Greg at Adas Israel’s Late Night Lounge: Shavuot Experience. We were talking around 1 am and he was telling me about how he started his work as an artisan butcher.I knew this was a great story to share with our community and asked him to be this week’s Jewish Artisan of the Week.
Know of anyone you think should be featured as Jew of the Week? Email Jackie to nominate them!
Jackie: Your past as a chef is quite interesting. You were trained in a kosher cooking school in Jerusalem. Are you still cooking?
Greg: I’ve left professional cooking for the time being. Although I’m a good cook and have the skills to be a good chef, I didn’t do great as a line cook, and the stress and hours were too much for me. I reached my goal of a Michelin starred restaurant in NYC and it still wasn’t the right fit. I work as a whole animal butcher now and I love it, it enables me to work normal hours, still be hands on with food, and be much more strident about my idealism in food sourcing. For instance I only work on pastured animals – no factory farmed meat crosses my butcher block. Happy animals produce better meat, no question, not to mention much safer meat, and properly managed pasturing of grazing animals is actually carbon positive. So where as commodity beef is one of the worst industries in America as far as carbon footprint, the beef I work on is actually helping to reverse that effect, trapping that CO2 into healthier pastures and nutrient dense, super meaty beef.
Jackie: Where can we try the food that you make?
Greg: Since I don’t cook professionally anymore, finding my food involves being my friend, haha. We host shabbat brunches from time to time and since it stopped being work, my home cooking has come to life again, my fiancee and I really love hosting together.
Jackie: What is your favorite thing about living in DC?
Greg: I grew up in NoVa so it’s nice to be close to home, but still far enough that we have our own life here in DC and can visit NoVa to see friends and family. Also, the food scene here is booming. It’s a really exciting time to be working in food in DC, this fall DC gets put on the global radar for restaurants with the release of the first DC Michelin guide. I can’t wait to see what the french food power elite think of our budding fooding culture.
Jackie: Can you tell us about your time as a hype dancer? Also what exactly is a hype dancer?
Greg: Many of the readers may remember the people dressed in all black that came out with the DJ’s at bar mitzvahs and helped get the dance floor going, as well as lead line dances and facilitate the games like coke & pepsi… thats a hype dancer. They also get hired by night clubs from time to time. I did it on weekends my senior year of high school, and it was a lot of fun. I loved dancing anyways, so why not get paid to do it? Who knows, I may have even danced at the bar or bat mitzvah of someone reading this!
Jackie: You are getting married in September. Will you be using some of the dance skills at your wedding?
Greg: I sure hope the old hype dancing days will come in handy at the wedding, since my fiancee and I have catering and event planning experience and are pretty particular about how we host, we’re doing everything for our wedding ourselves. So no DJ, and no hype dancers. We’re thinking we can do a pretty good job getting the dance floor going ourselves.
Jackie: I hear you are quite the handyman! What kind of furniture have you built for your home?
Greg: In high school I built sets for the theater department and worked as a contractors apprentice, plus my dad and I finished our basement, built a porch under the deck and a play house for my little sister, so I’ve always felt confident building a few things as needed. This year I built our radiator covers, a freestanding closet/wardrobe, plus our raised bed garden and compost bins; our bed frame, pantry unit, and my butcher block work table moved with us from NYC. I’ve got a few more projects coming up this fall, but someday I’d like to build a sustainable off grid house… we’ll see if I get there.
Jackie: What does your personal Jewish community look like?
Greg: Right now our personal Jewish community is still building. In NYC we’d built a great group through our shabbat dinner circles, and before that we lived in Blacksburg and both worked for the Hillel at Virginia Tech. Here we have a few friends already, but we still need to build that kind of thriving Jewish foodie crew we had in NYC. I’ve been really happy to find so many Jewish food idealists to latch onto. A friend of ours from Hillel at VT runs the CSA that we’re members of at Whitehall Farm in Clifton, VA. I love talking to her about some of the really radical farms she’s worked on and how it ties into Jewish values around intentionality and conscientiousness with regards to food.
Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather… we grab hold of that thread of heritage that ties us back to thousands of years of tradition and get to weave it into the tapestry of our modern lives.