About the Author

Peter Sanagan

Books by this Author
Cooking Meat

Cooking Meat

A Butcher's Guide to Choosing, Buying, Cutting, Cooking, and Eating Meat
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From the Introduction
I NEVER INTENDED TO OWN A BUTCHER SHOP. Neither did l imagine that becoming a vegetarian would launch my food career. But that's exactly what happened. When I was 16, I listened to The Smiths and thought Meat really was Murder, so I told my parents I was done with consuming flesh. My mother, like any good parent, acknowledged my right to choose but would not make me special food. Instead, she gave me a copy of a Moosewood Restaurant cookbook and free rein in the kitchen to make my own dinner. I ate a lot of sauerkraut and cheddar sandwiches. After six months of iron deficiency and exhaustion, I finally succumbed to the pleasures of a Toronto hot dog. And the rest is history. 

While the vegetarianism didn't last, my enjoyment of working in a kitchen did. I was fascinated to discover that I could take an ingredient that just happened to be in the fridge (this was before I really understood grocery shopping) and turn it into something that people thanked me for—all in the time it takes to watch two episodes of The Simpsons. Something about that really spoke to me in a way that nothing I was learning in high school did. Cooking was new, exciting, painful, thrilling, and gratifying

Around this time my father got a contract to work in Hong Kong for two years. The family packed up, got on a plane (the first in my life), and flew for about 8,000 hours. Hong Kong is an enormous, populous, loud, bright, beautiful city. It is intense and magical, the perfect place for a 17-year-old to develop an affinity for food and cooking. What struck me most was the obvious foreignness: not only did we take ferries a lot to get around but there were also entire markets dedicated to dried seafood and tiny fishing villages that boasted seaside fish restaurants. There were fruits and vegetables I had never seen before. And there were people and foods from all over the world. If my time as a vegetarian sparked my interest in cooking, my time in Hong Kong kindled my passion for food. 

By the time I returned to Toronto I knew that I wanted to try cooking professionally, and I got a job with Movenpick, an international marketplace-style restaurant where I learned the importance of consistency, service, and building flavor. I made many dishes, but my favorite was Rösti, a fried potato cake made with parcooked potatoes that are grated and pan-fried in clarified butter until golden. Served with sour cream alongside a grilled steak, it is probably one of the most delicious potato side dishes I've ever eaten. But while I enjoyed learning how to make pastas, sauces, and rösti, and to set up and prepare their garnishes, I often looked longingly at the grill and rotisserie cooks. They were the lumberjacks of the kitchen—burly and weathered—who cooked steaks to whatever color you wanted; seasoned pork chops with special spice mixes they blended in the back kitchen and then grilled them until they were just pink around the bone; and loaded the rotisserie with ducks, quails, and pork roasts and basted them with juices that collected in the drip tray. Although I never worked that station at Movenpick, I knew that I wanted to end up there. 

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