Five Questions Salon Edition with Mike Phillips of Red Table Meat Co.

Five Questions Salon Edition with Mike Phillips of Red Table Meat Co.

Mike Phillips, Red Table Meat Co.

Mike Phillips of Red Table Meat Co. Photo: Courtesy of Red Table Meat Co.

Who doesn’t love good food? Taste is one of the senses that evokes memories, and comfort food not only nourishes our bodies - it sustains our souls. Particularly during a time when there is so much talk about artisanally crafted food, how could the ACC not be a part of that conversation? Join us on November 11 for our Library Salon Series event, where we’ll be hearing from someone who’s been in the food business for a long time. Mike Phillips is the co-owner and co-founder of Red Table Meat Co. in the Food Building in northeast Minneapolis. To whet your appetite (see what I did there?) check out this short interview with the man behind the meat.

What is Red Table Meat company? Can you tell us a little about your background?
I was a chef in the Minneapolis/St Paul area for almost 20 years. As a chef, I loved curing meat, and I wanted to learn how to make these amazing things that cost so much. As I got into it more and more, I realized that it was a passion, and I wanted to see where it would go. At the same time, I traveled and saw fantastic cured meats from around the world and the often fierce pride for people's local, cured delicacies. I was very involved in our local food system in Minnesota, and I saw how broken a lot of it was. I thought that maybe cultivating some pride in a local product (as I had seen around the world) could go a long way to healing a local food system. I was fortunate as a chef to meet my partner, Kieran Folliard, who right away understood what I was talking about and agreed to help launch the dry-cured meat company.

It seems like the food industry everywhere is changing, and the shift is defined by words like, organic, sustainable, local or homegrown. Can you speak to this shift happening nationwide? How does Red Table Meat Co.’s mission reflect these changes?
I think that people are completely more engaged in the "where" and "why" of their food than they were 10 years ago, and they recognize what great medicine food can be. I feel like when we set out on a quest for cheap food to fill the masses, we lost very important components that were naturally part of our diet. When producers were faced with the task of making cheap, stable food, it came down to a lot of additives and stabilizers to make it work - and we are seeing the results. The lack of natural fats and other nutrients affects our health as a country. I feel that people are more and more interested in paying a fair price for their food, in knowing where it comes from, and in connecting the dots to their own health. The descriptive words you mentioned just reflect the attitudes of the populace. We [Red Table Meat Co.] consider ourselves part of this reflection, in that we work with small farmers and pay a sustaining price. We create good, wholesome, natural food that is big on taste, so you don't need to use so much. We support the local economy with our local farmers, and we work to create cultural pride for our region.

I recently learned that there is a difference between charcuterie and salumi. Can you explain the difference and why Red Table Meat Co. is technically considered a salumi?
Charcuterie is a term that has changed quite a bit from meaning derived from the words for "flesh" and "cooked." It was used to describe cooking and salting pork often, but has grown to encompass cooked and cured meats, fish, poultry, and vegetables. Salumi really refers to the process of salting and curing all parts of the pig.

What is your favorite type of meat that you make?
That would be like picking a favorite child - of which I have three. I don't really have a favorite. I enjoy all equally.

What can salon attendees look forward to from your talk on November 11?
I hope salon attendees will walk away with not only a deeper appreciation of the craft of salumi, but also a boost to their sense of pride in the great things going on in this city.

Presented by the American Craft Council, the Library Salon Series is a series of free public presentations exploring craft, making, and art.

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.