“Big things have small beginnings,” Peter O’Toole said in Lawrence of Arabia—it’s something I kept thinking of when talking to Chef and Founder of Red Table Meat Company, Mike Phillips, because, though his company began with humble origins, the meats he produces are nothing short of extraordinary. Red Table Meat is a company that has been dedicated to quality since day one, taking decades of restaurant experience and combining it with traditional methods to produce one-of-a-kind meats that expose consumers to something new and different in the world of salami. It was Mike’s experiences in Europe, particularly in regions in Italy, Spain, and France, that inspired him to bring an underrepresented product Stateside.
“In Italy, Spain, and France, each little region has its specialty, and each little town has its specialty, whether it's cheese or wine or cured meat,” Mike told me. “What really impressed me about all the specialties was the pride that everyone there had in their food. So why don't we have that in the United States anymore?”
As a chef with over 20 years of experience, Mike is highly adept at cultivating delicious flavors, something he brought with him when he opened Red Table Meat in 2014 with his partner Kieran Folliard. Drawing on his European travels, Mike took his fledgling company and focused in on one unique salami variety—young, fresh salami.
“The best salami I ever had in my life was at my mentor's house, and he brought out what I thought was a cooked sausage. And it cut like a cooked sausage. It was a smaller diameter salami. I ate it and said, ‘that's the best thing I've ever had. How do I make that?’ That was the charge,” Mike commented.
A young, fresh salami was preferred by the Italians Mike met, who commented that they would need tub of Rolaids to eat the highly-acidic, overly-salted American-made salami (shots fired). According to Mike (and his Italian mentor), the best salami should cut easily into thick chunks, instead of the paper-thin slices made by a deli slicer machine. In this way, young, fresh salami saves man hours at the deli counter, with no need for using or cleaning a deli slicer. Though Red Table Meat focuses primarily on its salami, there are a few other meats the company is producing, including a month-long-dry-aged, French-style ham and a mortadella.
Mike admits that it can sometimes be difficult to sway consumers away from the salami they’re used to and get them hooked on young, fresh salami. For retailers, the key is education and letting the customer experience the flavorful, succulent salami for themselves.
“It's not always that we're the best match for a certain retailer or a certain food service chain. A lot of times I tell them, you know your customer base—you know if they're used to older salami and if they want a hard salami,” Mike concluded. “That being said, I always ask for them to at least do an aggressive sampling program so that people can try it and see the difference for themselves. Put an older salami up against a young, fresh salami and really see when they taste it, what they think.”
For more news on new meats, cheeses, bakery items, and specialty food, keep reading Deli Market News.