IF you think of a rosy-cheeked man in a red and white striped apron when anyone says the word butcher, think again.
The new head of butchery and charcuterie at Welbeck’s School of Artisan Food is the charismatic Kate Hill.
Not only can she wield a cleaver as well as the next man, she also brings a unique blend of French and American influences to the job.
Kate, 59, was born in Hawaii but has lived in the Gascony region of France for 25 years.
“I decided years ago to go travelling and I was going round Europe in a canal boat.”
“I set off from Holland and went through France but my boat broke down in the town of Agen.”
“I fell in love with the place, found an old ruined farmhouse to renovate, and have been there ever since.”
Now she has also fallen in love with Welbeck.
“I spent my childhood watching Robin Hood movies so to be here is just wonderful, and to be working in this setting with other like-minded people is incredible.”
Kate runs a cookery school in Agen and will be commuting between there and Welbeck via East Midlands Airport.
She explained that a charcutier was anybody making a cured meat product, such as ham, bacon and salami, preserving it so that it didn’t have to be cooked straightaway.
“We’ll be looking at the history behind this, of what people did before convenience foods.”
Students on the fulltime foundation degree overseen by Kate will be using meat reared on the Welbeck Estate.
“We have amazing resources here and we will be looking at the whole process of producing meat products, from farm to fork.”
“There are five steps - farm, abbatoir, butcher, cook, consumer.”
“People often have quite a Disneyfied view of animals, they think of Bambi and Thumper, and yet we are willing to eat anything that comes from the most inhumane treatment of animals.”
“We are looking at the correct treatment of animals and how that affects the end product.”
Kate has three decades worth of experience in the artisan food industry, learning in the kitchens of top French experts, and is also a published author and well respected meat expert, hosting classes around the world.
She is heading the Advanced Diploma in Butchery and Charcuterie, as well as an extensive programme of butchery short courses.
She said: “We will be looking at every part of the animal and the different cuts, it’s not just about making pork pies.”
“I think people here in the UK are more food aware and are prepared to spend more on meat than they are in America, although it’s changing a bit there now because of TV chefs exploring charcuterie.”
Director of Studies at the artisan school Sheila Russell said: “We are delighted that Kate Hill is joining the team this year.”
“She brings with her artisanal skills in charcuterie, which combine perfectly with our traditional English butchery skills to deliver a comprehensive advanced diploma course, educating students on the complete journey from field to fork.”
*Kate’s website is at www.kitchen-at-camont.com.