How to Write a ‘Sexy Butchers’ Trend Piece

Note Tom Mylan's muscled forearms.
Note Tom Mylan’s muscled forearms. Photo: Hannah Whitaker/New York Magazine

Robin Raisfeld and Rob Patronite probably didn’t expect to start a meme when they wrote about butchers with groupies, but, several months later, Kim Severson penned a trend piece, “Young Idols With Cleavers Rule the Stage,” that, just like the New York piece, quoted Tom Mylan, Pat La Frieda, and Joshua and Jessica Applestone of Fleischer’s to show how a new meat consciousness has led to the rise of the rock-star butcher. If the Times article seemed awfully familiar, check this out: Tonight, Nightline is running a “Platelist” segment on “Butchers: New Rock Stars of the Culinary World,” and the accompanying online article is so similar to the Times piece (and hence the New York piece before it) that we thought we might as well break down the formula for the person who wants to write the 5,000th story about rock-star butchers.

Associate the “hotness” of butchers with the breakdown of animal carcasses.
Times: They turn death into life, in the form of a really good skirt steak. And it doesn’t hurt that some people find them exceptionally hot.

Nightline: It’s such a primal, dangerous act that some have started calling butchering “hot.”

Mention of tattoos is optional, but definitely perv out on “muscled forearms.”
Times: With their swinging scabbards, muscled forearms and constant proximity to flesh, butchers have the raw, emotional appeal of an indie band.

Nightline: These younger butchers also use their tattooed, muscled forearms to break down beef, lamb and pig.

Track the fall and resurgence of butchery, in more or less the same words.
Times: Butchery skills began to recede in the 1960s, when beef and pork, already cut and boxed, started arriving at supermarkets. Neighborhood butchers, who once handed a child a slice of bologna and saved the hanger steaks for special customers, began to evaporate. Modern butchers became more like slicers. But the trend began to reverse with the rise of locally raised meat, and the popularity of so-called off-cuts. Some restaurants brought butchery into their kitchens, even though it’s a skill barely taught in culinary school.

: The popularity of training to be a butcher started to fade in the 1960s when pre-cut meats arrived in grocery stores. Butchers were relegated to the back of the supermarket — often just slicing bologna … And after years of seeing the doors close at butcher shops only to be replaced by pre-packaged meat at the supermarket, new stores are now just starting to open back up, as is in-house butchering in restaurants.

Mention Pat La Frieda’s $26 burger.
Times: [La Frieda’s] name gained so much currency that Keith McNally commissioned a special LaFrieda Black Label made from prime dry-aged cuts that is fashioned into $26 hamburger at his new Minetta Tavern.

Nightline: La Frieda was one of the first butchers to hit it big in New York City and has gained strong recognition as one of the top meat purveyors. He’s been asked to create custom hamburger blends for more than 50 New York City restaurants, including an exclusive $26 hamburger using his sought-after dry-aged steaks.

Get La Frieda to talk smack about the younger butchers who want to learn from him.
Times: As a result, Mr. LaFrieda, 35, has been inundated with young would-be butchers who want internships. Does he think the new breed of rock star butchers are any good? “No. This is a business that takes a lot of training, and where are you going to find good meat to practice on? It’s hard.”

Nightline: [La Frieda] has had to turn down around 40 requests for apprenticeships from “hipsters” in July alone … Despite his fame, LaFrieda is skeptical of the spotlight on butchery. “I have mixed reactions about all that. I don’t know how many of those so-called butchers will be butchers next year. Probably next year they’ll be pastry chefs, and then on to the next trend,” he said.

Get one of the young butchers to say they don’t feel like rock stars.
Times: “We never did it to be rock stars,” Ms. Eisemann said. “For me, it was a way to promote small farms and certain fish. That’s it.”

Nightline: “I would definitely not consider myself a sex symbol,” said Ryan Skeen, executive chef at Allen and Delancy in New York City. “If you would see me at the end of a service, I definitely don’t think anyone would consider me a sex symbol.”

Quote Mr. Cutlets.
Times: Part of what some people call the hipster hottie butchering phenomenon is that sometimes the meat isn’t up to par, said Josh Ozersky, senior restaurant editor for Citysearch and author of two books on meat-related subjects. “It’s like some kind of tattooed lothario is now going to give you the horrible shins raised by some other hipster who doesn’t know anything about meat.”

Nightline: But Josh Ozersky, national restaurant editor at and a self-professed meat guru, said that people have a gut reaction that draws them to the gore, the blood and the violence of butchering. “Let’s face it, there’s something very erotic about seeing whole animal carcasses cut up,” said Ozersky.

Totally optional: Cite the outlets that wrote this story before you.
Times: [Nada]

Nightline: [Crickets]

How to Write a ‘Sexy Butchers’ Trend Piece