Chicago has always been a radio town. For decades, talk radio in Chicago has always been famous for it’s Shock Jock, open forum, free-flowing DJ talk. john “Records” Landecker, Larry Lucjack, Steve Dahl, Bob Sirott, Jonathon Brandmeier, Kevin Mathews and Mancow Muller. Chicago Radio personalities were known for making “Real People out of Celebrities and Celebrities out of Real People” One such celebrity was a Butcher who appeared regularly on the Steve Dahl show. He was affectionalty called “Pete the Buther” aka Pete Heflin. Pete is one of Buedel Fine Meats Master Butchers and we are proud to showcase him in our Chicago Butcher series!
Our field reporter Jeannie Boutelle, reports in with this great Chicago Radio celebrity and master butcher!
When I was asked to interview “Pete The Butcher”, for this series on rockstar butchers, if I hadn’t known that the article was about meat, I would have thought it was going to be about the Chicago mob, something more along the lines of Goodfellas. Peter Heflin of Buedel Fine Meats IS KNOWN as, aka, “Pete the Butcher”. Buedel, located in Bridgeview, Il, has been in the meat business for over a 100 years. They are dedicated to understanding their customers’ needs and then meeting them with the finest quality meats, along with the honesty, integrity, and outstanding customer service they are known for.
I am a transplant and not a native Chicagoan, but for those people who listened to the outlandish talk radio of Kevin Matthews, the Morning Man on WLUP-FM, “The Loop” in the 90’s would have heard Pete the Butcher as well on the air with his weekly segment, “Meat Tips”. Back then he was known as Pete “The Deadhead” butcher, little did I know, that I was interviewing a “meat celebrity”!
At the Red Meat Market tent at the Good Food Expo a few weeks ago, I sat down to talk to yet again a really friendly, good-looking guy who looked nothing like a mob hitman or a deadhead. Pete Heflin has owned his own butcher shops and been a meat cutter for 25 years. He has seen everything in the meat business including the transition to centralized cutting which basically eliminated the local meat cutter in most places when Jewel and Dominicks opened up cutting facilities by the slaughter houses. He has seen butchery become a lost art until now where butchery is making a comeback as sustainable farming gains more recognition. Consumers are now interested in artisan butchers and learning about butchering themselves.
I sat down to talk to Pete after his butchering demonstration for the Red Meat Market at the Good Food Expo, of course, I had to get his latest “meat tips”!
JB: How did you get into the butchering business?
Pete: I didn’t want to sweep floors in a clothing store anymore, an opportunity opened up at a market that was manned by first generation, old school, German, Irish, meat cutters. It was a great training ground, an old school butchery. From there I opened my own butcher stores and then sold them all Buedel’s has been in the business for over 100 years and I have known the Vlcek family for many years and believed in their brand.
JB: First off, what is good meat to you?
Pete: Good meat is properly raised, properly fed, cattle from the Midwest. Know the meat you are buying. Know where the beef comes from.
JB: What is your favorite cut of meat?
Pete: A NY Strip Steak, It is a lean cut of beef and has to be tender to be perfect. I love baby back ribs, excellent eating with your fingers, you can slow cook them on the grill in the summertime with your family and finally, lamb chops.
JB: What is the strangest question you have been asked by a customer?
Pete: Am I single? Can I take you home with me?
JB: What is the most under appreciated cut of meat?
Pete: Round meats, top round and bottom knuckle.
JB: What is your advice to new butchers?
Pete: You cannot learn how to cut if you don’t know how to grind meat. Wash dishes, wash the equipment, learn how to make sausage, trim, get on the bench. Continue to progress until you are good with primal cuts, steak cuts, round cuts, learn about the whole animal.
JB: What about grass-fed beef?
Pete: I think there is a place for grass fed beef. I am not against grain fed beef. Grain, corn, beans are treats to the animal and if properly fed in moderation make for a happy animal.
JB: What is your advice to the consumer when buying beef?
Pete: I suggest buying from local, independent markets. Ask questions, trust where your meat is coming from, buy from local, independent markets.
Pete Heflin is a man who knows his meat, knows his customer, loves his profession and that is why we call him a “rockstar butcher”.