The term "celebrity butcher" may sound like an oxymoron, but if there is one in Vermont, it's Cole Ward. Three years ago, he and chef Courtney Contos released a DVD series called "The Gourmet Butcher." Now Chelsea Green Publishing has put out Ward's first book, The Gourmet Butcher's Guide to Meat: How to Source It Ethically, Cut It Professionally, and Prepare It Properly.
How did Ward, who admits he's not a voracious reader, end up an author? "Actually, I wasn't inspired," he says. "Usually you write a book, then look for a publisher. I had four book offers." He and coauthor Karen Coshof, a Montréal-based food and fashion photographer who helped produce Ward's DVD, decided on Vermont-based Chelsea Green. To pair with the book, the publisher asked them to prepare a CD of photos of Ward going through the steps of taking apart various animals.
The process was grueling, with Coshof photographing Ward over 14-hour days in which he demonstrated different cutting styles. His old-school writing mode also proved a hurdle. Ward says he handwrote the manuscript — about 400 pages' worth — and drove 25 miles to have it professionally typed and emailed to Coshof.
The result is a comprehensive look at meat, from the history of butchery — beginning in the Stone Age — to Ward's potentially controversial opinions on today's factory farming and local meat production. The book stays unerringly in Ward's wry, old-Vermont voice.
The butcher has plenty of educational and promotional events planned. This weekend, he'll teach a daylong intensive at ArtsRiot in Burlington as part of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont's winter conference. On March 7, Ward will hit the New England Meat Conference in Concord, N.H.; and on July 23, he'll speak about ethical and sustainable meat sourcing at the James Beard House in New York City. Despite his busy schedule, Ward says he hopes to have time to start work on a second book soon.