When New York City meat seller Pat LaFrieda and Zero Point Zero Production joined forces to create an iPad app, nobody was fucking around. “It was two 16-hour days of sawing, and that was just the beef,” says LaFrieda by phone on his rare day off.
The result is Pat LaFrieda’s Big App For Meat ($6.99), an absolutely packed resource featuring descriptions and photos of over 200 different cuts, a quiz to test your butchering knowledge and 50 minutes of instructional videos from Pat himself. (Check out what is pretty much the ultimate guide to understanding the different cuts of beef.) I caught up with him to talk turkey. Well, skirt steak.
First question, do you have a favorite cut of beef?
Yes. My favorite cut is the outside skirt steak. That cut is in my backyard barbecue every weekend.
Pat LaFrieda, the man with the name and the man behind some of the best butchering on the East Coast, what is your secret to grilling beef?
I marinate my skirt steak in brown sugar and balsamic vinegar. I put it in there for about 12 hours and grill it on high heat—450 to 500 degrees—for a very short amount of time, to get a really nice medium-rare. Turn them twice and they are done.
This video is pretty incredible. You go through the whole animal in like four minutes. Let’s talk about the app. How long did it take you to finish it?
The app was a year in the making. The videos took a lot of time and tying it all together with the app builders took a lot of time. This was a project that nobody had done before. It was a new frontier.
When you set out to create the app, did you know what you were doing? Were you like, let’s shoot some videos?
We wanted to take all the cuts of meat from the different species and explain what they are used for and the only good way to do it was through video. The vision was to bring the education of meat cuts to the table. Not too many people get it right.
How did you accomplish this via the iPad?
We took entire animals and broke it down from scratch. We’re talking about 850-pound steers. As I would carve a portion out, they would very quickly wisp it away to a different part of the building where photographers would go to town on it. We did this all from scratch. It was the best way to do it.
How long were you sawing beef?
We had two, 16-hour days for just beef, and that was just the breaking down of it. Every weekend we would take on a different animal.
How many animals did you go through?
About 40 when all was said and done.
Man, that’s grueling!
It’s grueling unless you have been trained at my company. My busiest night of the week is an 18-hour day. While filming, toward the end of the day, I would see cameramen slowing down. For me, it was par for the course. Welcome to the business. At one point I spotted a cameraman sleeping and pulled the camera out of his hands and filmed him.
When you dine out at restaurants and pay with a credit card, or your name is on a reservation list, do people see your name and sort of freak out? You are Pat LaFrieda after all.
Recently a server came out and told me how the meat was part of a premium program and had been hand-selected by Pat LaFrieda himself. He then went back and gave the order to the chef, who knew I was there, and came back and was “why didn’t you tell me you were Pat Lafrieda?” I wanted to hear it!
Do you eat out often?
I can escape from work about once a week, but when I do I am always taken care of. The chefs get really mad if they don’t know that I am coming.
The last great meal you had in NYC?
The restaurant at Eataly, Manzo. I had the rib steak and it was awesome.
Did you write the questions for the quiz?
Yes, myself and a producer at Zero Point Zero. If you are really into meat cuts, which people are these days, it’s a fun quiz. And your score goes onto Apple and you compete with other people?
Do you pass every time?
I can’t get 100%, and I wrote the thing.