Category Archives: Chef Charles’ Adventures

Chef Charles Beef Tour Day Four

Thursday, January 19

Kane processing plant sign

On our final day we visited Kane, one of the biggest beef producing plants in South Texas – since 1949. The Kane plant is a Temple Grandin design and the cattle are treated very well. If a truck driver, loader, or ANYONE mistreats an animal in any way they are removed from the business. Cows arrive daily, and they’re never there live more than 24 hours.

Temple Grandin movie poster

The Kane plant has an autographed Temple Grandin movie poster in the office.

This plant takes the cattle from live on the hoof all the way to cryovaced and boxed in about 36–38 hours (beef must hang to chill for 24 hours before cryovacing). It takes about 6-8 hours to break down the meat, and Kane processes about 725 head a day. I was amazed to learn that in order to sustain our demand for beef, the US butchers about 300,000 head of cattle each week!

I grew up in cattle country and I spent time with high school FFA in sheep, cattle, and hog slaughterhouses. I am amazed at the changes that have happened in the industry since those days! This place couldn’t have been more different than what I remember. It was very cool to see how much has evolved for the well-being of the cattle, and also the processing itself. Even the safety has changed so much from when I was young. It was amazing.

The group

We stopped at a gas station/Rudy’s barbeque in San Antonio on the way home to take this shot of the whole group.

Chef Charles Beef Tour Day Three

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Graham Land and Cattle Co

Today we toured the Graham Land and Cattle Co. feedlot in Gonzalez, TX. It was a muddy mess, but lots of fun. The cows here first get a 6 – 8 month run on grasslands, then they start on feed once per day while they continue to graze. Then they move on to twice-a-day grain feedings and they get a little more each day. They spend 80 – 120 days on the feed. The Graham Feedlot has about 30,000 head of cattle at any given time, and they ship about 700 – 800 out each week.

Cattle feed

This cattle feed is sort of like corn flakes.

Moving cattle feed

Cattle feed machines

The folks here were quick to point out that the cows actually have a lot of space but they are very curious so whenever anybody comes to take their picture they all crowd up to the fence and it looks like they’re really crammed in there. But they’re not.

Cattle in pasture

Cattle on pasture

Cattle in mud, Chef Charles Beef Tour Day 3

Told you it was muddy!

Cattle in feed lot

Cattle getting their feed


Evening in Corpus Christi

This evening we had dinner at the Republic of Texas Bar & Grill In the Omni Hotel in Corpus Christi. What a great view of the bay, overlooking the USS Lexington naval ship! The restaurant is multi-level and very big. It was modern, well-lighted and spacious with plenty of room to move, and enough space on the table for all of the food and accompaniments. The staff was invisible and everywhere at the same time – amazing! Great presentation and a definite WOW factor several times – a tomahawk ribeye served in a cast iron skillet, and different shapes and textures of plates throughout the meal. Wood cutting boards for appetizer, dessert sampler and charcuterie. Jams, mustards, and pickled items were all house-made with local ingredients.

Tomahawk steak in skillet


We enjoyed a 45-day dry aged wagyu tomahawk “cote de boeuf” with rosemary garlic potatoes, baby carrots, shallots, asparagus, and sauteed mushrooms.

Tomahawk steak cut up and served

The tomahawk was brought to the table in a cast iron skillet, and then cut up and served.

Hash browns

Idaho hash browns cooked in a cast iron skillet 3.5 inches thick (Hash browns on steroids!)

Chef Charles Beef Tour Day Two

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

We enjoyed breakfast in Austin Tuesday morning and then went on to College Station to learn about the Texas cattle industry and production systems. There’s a lot to learn about this industry and we covered a ton today!

We got started right out with a class by Dr. Ron Gill, Professor and Extension Livestock Specialist at Texas A&M. We learned about the history of American cattle, from when they first came to the Americas around the time of Christopher Columbus, through where we are now.

Dr. Gill went over different breeds, from the most common to rare breeds, and how they’ve been bred for different living conditions, disease resistance, and environment. We learned the difference between cattle that thrive here in Texas and those that do well in northern states and Canada.

American Aquarium Album

Then we went on to learn all about grading steaks: standard, select, choice and prime. A cow has to be less than 30 months old to be considered choice or prime. Older cows are used more for dog food, etc. Cows are first grass-fed and then they move on to silage, corn, and various grains for their last 80 – 120 days before slaughter. They “fatten up” in stages: first they build internal fat, then they get their back fat, and finally the last stage is when marbling in the muscles happens. A solely grass-fed cow can’t develop the marbling that a grain-fed cow does.

Marbling, Maturity and Quality Grade

Another cool thing we did today was participate in a tasting panel. We tried 7 kinds of steaks and evaluated them for juiciness, muscle fiber, connective tissue amount, beef identifiability (beefy flavor), fat (taste and feel), green (plant/freshness), musky or earthiness, and sour.

Tasting Worksheet Tasting Notes

We participated in a cutting demo where we broke down a whole side of beef. First came the forefront and all the steaks were portioned out. We went through the muscles to find steaks “hidden” inside the bigger pieces, like the flat iron, which is way inside the chuck on the shoulder. Then went through the ribs to get ribeyes, tomahawk ribeyes, and more.

Finally we made it to the back end of the cow and got the tenderloins and strips. You can’t get all the cuts of beef out of a single cow. If you want porterhouse and t-bone, then you sacrifice the option of a whole tenderloin or a whole strip. The industry is constantly evaluating demand to determine what cuts to make.

In the US, about 300,000 cows are butchered every week, and we export about 17%, including a lot of hide and intestine to South America and offal (heart, kidney, etc) to Asian markets.

Butchering beef

Dinner Time

Dalton Domino

Dalton Domino

After a day of education we saw the grammy-nominated band American Aquarium and also Dalton Domino at The Tap in College Station. Fun fact: Dalton’s grandmother lives near The Classic and is a frequent guest! We enjoyed meeting the bands and talking with them after the show.

American Aquarium

Oh — and we ate too! At a place called Christopher’s, a restaurant in a very old house built in 1913. They have restored to outside and modernized the dining areas and kitchen inside, as well as added on some banquet/meeting space. The decor was french and very beautiful. The food, again, looked fresh and ready to jump off the white plates. They served warm, fresh bread with a ball of pesto surrounded by olive oil in a small bowl. I liked that. Each entree had its own personality, being paired with something that matched the protein. I really could feel the thought put into every dish. All of the staff that we came in contact with was polite and professional, and they were all wearing the same style shirt, pressed and looking sharp.

Our group talked about what we each thought of our day, what we learned, and how we could incorporate it into our work. It was a very pleasant dinner.

House fillet with crawfish tails

I had the House Filet: an 8 oz prime filet on creamed spinach and house potatoes, topped with fried crawfish tails and bearnaise sauce on a port wine demi glace, with an added crab-stuffed shrimp.

Caesar salad carbonara

Caesar salad carbonara

Sticky toffee pudding with Guiness ice cream

Sticky toffee pudding with Guinness ice cream

Chef Charles’ Beef Tour Day One

I got to spend four days with the Texas Beef Council and a great group of chefs, distributors, educators, and salesmen, learning about the Texas beef industry. It was great to engage in conversations with people who had so many different points of view! I’ll be writing a little about each day of the trip.

Monday, January 16, Austin, TX

I left Roanoke on Monday afternoon and flew to Austin along with Stefon Rishel of Texas Bleu and Michael Lee of Urban Rio. When we arrived in Austin we got settled in, and then met up with the rest of the crowd for a big evening. We got to see Dale Watson sing, which was amazing, and we were treated to some pretty good food and beverages at a place called Cannon + Belle.

Dale Watson

Dale Watson

Cannon + Belle had a trendy Austin vibe in their decor, table setup, and artistic plate presentations. The food on the stark white plates really popped. It was awesome to see Texas/local food on the menu and taste the freshness. The chef said he gets produce 5 days a week, and you could tell! Service was professional and unobtrusive, knowledgeable and polite. Their menu lists what items they get locally, and where they’re sourced. It was a really cool place! Today all I can tell you is the food was great. Tomorrow I’ll tell you about beef!

herb-smoked venison with root veggies and a Texas tempranillo demi

My dinner at Cannon + Belle: herb-smoked venison with root veggies and a Texas tempranillo demi

Board of meats at Cannon + Belle

Board of meats

Board of desserts

Board of desserts

Pastrami-cured beef rib

Pastrami-cured beef rib