Some time ago, Seviche chef-owner Anthony Lamas mentioned in a Facebook posted how his kitchen staff loved to butcher whole animals such as pigs and fish.

The remark caught the attention of a few Facebook friends who encouraged Lamas to “show us how to do that, too.”

Anthony Lamas breaks down a whole tuna loin.

Thus, the idea for a butchery class was born, and Lamas invited a few press hacks to have a sneak peak at what he’ll offer at future classes.

Before I mention that, it’s important to note that Lamas won’t be offering classes to the public and seeing who signs up. It would be costly to order a whole pig or multiple whole fish to butcher and have one person sign up. These are private tutorials where six to 10 people will gather for the experience of learning how to disassemble an entire animal—sans guts—watch how Lamas prepares it and/or possibly leave with a lovely parting gift (i.e. raw product) to prepare at home.

Since butchery is the skill to be mastered, these also aren’t necessarily cooking classes. Lamas may have cooked certain foods ahead of time for students to taste, but the emphasis is cutting lessons, not cooking lessons.

“This is stuff we do every day in the kitchen, so I have to admit that at first, it was kind of hilarious to me that people showed an interest in it,” Lamas said. “But as I thought about it, I and my cooks love to do it; it’s fun for us. So why wouldn’t other people find it interesting, too?”

Lamas and his sous chef team up to disassemble a whole grouper.

When I cooked eons ago, it was the same for me and my peers. If whole fish or giant cuts of meat came to the kitchens where I worked, the cooks eagerly cut them apart. Be it some primal instinct or a fascination with the anatomy of the proteins we prepared, there was something highly sensuous about the feel of that cold flesh against your hands and the way a skillfully used knife divided it silently. Kind of a soothing, calming process, believe it or not.

During our visit to Seviche’s kitchen, we watched Lamas and a sous chef prepare whole octopus, break down whole grouper and parcel out a

single massive tuna loin. I knew enough about getting whole fillets off a fish carcass, but I’d never seen anyone scrape the bones so meticulously as they did.

“We use this extra flesh for seafood sausage or seviche or seafood bisque, like you’ll try later,” Lamas said, showing the scraped meat to onlookers. “When you get in whole fish like this, you have the opportunity to use every part of it, not just the filets. It’s not only the sustainable thing to do, it helps us manage our costs on some really expensive ingredients.”

And with that, he dropped a fully fileted and scraped grouper carcass into a stock pot for steeping.

Depending on what’s butchered and the number of students in each class, prices could range anywhere from $75 to $125 dollars. Clearly not cheap, but doubtless up close and personal.

Remember the infamous “tuna scrape” scare? This is how it’s done, but the scare had to do with how it was poorly processed.

And fun. When we finished watching Lamas and his sous chef dismantle what would become that night’s specials, we capped it off with some small tastes made from those fish. (Delicious, of course.) But he said it’s possible that in a whole hog butchery class, for example, students will leave with large cuts of meat rather than a meal.

Either way, classes are fairly customizable, he added.

“Since they’re private classes, people can tell us what they want to see,” Lamas said. “To me, it’s just another cool way to share with customers our excitement about food.”

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Steve Coomes
Steve Coomes is a restaurant veteran turned award-winning food, spirits and travel writer. In his 24-year career, he has edited and written for multiple national trade and consumer publications including Nation's Restaurant News and Southern Living. He is a feature writer for Louisville magazine, Edible Louisville & The Bluegrass and Food & Dining Magazine. The author of two books, "Country Ham: A Southern Tradition of Hogs, Salt & Smoke," and the "Home Distiller's Guide to Spirits," he also serves as a ghostwriter for multiple clients.

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