Bryce Coulton’s voice has a slow New Jersey swagger. He speaks deliberately and with precision much in the same way he maneuvers a curved boning knife across the leg of a butchered pig. The morning of our interview I watched as he sliced segments of the animal in the back kitchen of Dundee’s Pitch Pizzeria where he practices charcuterie, the craft of preserving meat, traditionally pork.
“This piece,” he said while pausing briefly and gently pressing his fingertips into the raw meat, “will be used to make Calabrian Salami. The recipe was passed down from the chef’s aunt.”
Perhaps Coulton is the perfect person to recreate a generations-old salami from southern Italy. He lived there for five years during his double decade military career, which landed him in Omaha, but not before exposing him to the foods and flavors of Italy, England, and, most importantly Ireland, where he learned his trade at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. While at Ballymaloe, a school whose founder is to Ireland what Alice Waters is to the United States, Coulton found butchering to be one of the more interesting aspects of his culinary education and charcuterie to be the most challenging. Creating meats that taste as beautiful as they sound -- soppressata, finocchiona, bresaola and mortadella – requires a combination of cuts, fats, salts, spices, bacteria, temperature and time.
“One day we brought in a pig and spent 10 hours processing it from head to toe. We learned about every single aspect of it, but most importantly we learned how to appreciate and make the best use of the animal, which is something I wanted to carry on,” explained Coulton.
In some ways the mild-mannered man with salt and pepper hair is a brimming example of discovering the diamonds in his own backyard. After adding to his resume at the Petersham Nurseries Cafe in London, Coulton returned to Omaha to put roots down and hone his skills in the craft of charcuterie. Most people think of Europe as the home of fine meats, but only 138 miles from Omaha in Norwalk, Iowa some of the world’s best prosciutto is made at La Quercia. Following his passion for knowledge Coulton simply called La Quercia and asked if he could swing by and spend a couple of days learning from them. In typical midwestern camaraderie they welcomed him into the world of making artisan prosciutto.
Like many things in food what was old is new again. Though charcuterie was originally developed as a preservation method it is now primarily practiced for the flavors created by the process. Following old-world traditions Coulton believes in knowing his farmers, noting that proximity to producers is paramount.
Most recently Coulton spent a little more than two years at the Old Market’s Boiler Room where he established a relationship with local pork producer TD Niche.
“Much of the product I deal with is literally down the road, which gives me a great opportunity to build relationships with these farmers,” he said. “I’ve even eaten raw pork. I don’t know if that proves my stupidity or my trust in Travis [Dunekacke, the owner of TD Niche].”
Now that Coulton is at Pitch, he works with Bellevue producer Harvest Valley Foods, where they lovingly referred to him as the salami guy. Like any food artisan, quality product is the foundation of his craft and a lesson impressed upon him at Ballymaloe. They are lessons he hopes to pass on through mentoring culinary students at Omaha Public Schools and new teaching opportunities at Metropolitan Community College.
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