At The Food Channel, we are privy to some amazing food experiences. When people say, “You must get to eat a lot of great food,” it’s impossible to do anything but agree. Our experiences go way beyond tasting the food, though, and into understanding the work that goes behind it all. That means going to the source.
When we were invited by Smith & Wollensky to come along with them while they visited their primary beef distributor, Prime Food Distributor (PFD) out on Long Island, NY, we were eager to go. We knew we’d have to “suit up” in sanitary clothing and be dressed for freezer temperatures. What we didn’t know is how much of an impact the visit would have on our crew.
After all, our crews have eaten lunch in the soybean fields with hardworking farmers at harvest, have sampled our way through major food tradeshows, and we live out food fantasies every day in our own Culinary Center—so it’s hard to move the needle.
However, what we found at PFD was a company full of passionate people who completely understand and appreciate the experience of food. Working with them was an excellent reminder of why we love food, why we talk about it so much, and why we are curious about what goes into making it–because every single ingredient has a story!
This visit was eye-opening, and we attempted to share that with you through these stories and video links:
But let us tell you just a little bit more about this company.
We all know that farm-to-table is in vogue, and, when possible, we diligently check to see if our favorite restaurants are sourcing their ingredients from local farms. We can see the fresh herb garden on site, visit the same farmers markets where they are getting supplies, and even watch them cook. What’s harder to see is where the meat, the fish, those important center-of-the-plate items come from.
In the case—for companies such as Smith & Wollensky who buy prime steaks—the meat comes from a company with a long family tradition of butchering and selecting the highest quality steaks. There is a definite patriarch in the senior executive of PFD, Joseph Castellana, Sr., president. His two sons work in the company—Joseph, Jr. stays behind the scenes on the business side, while younger son Nicholas is involved in Operations in a big way, right out among the butchers wielding his own set of knifes.
They each have a story, and a reason why it’s important for them to ensure quality meat goes to their clients. Paramount is the knowledge that someone, somewhere is eating that steak for dinner, and they feel responsibility for that person having the best possible experience.
It’s a feeling of pride that you don’t always see in business. At PFD, you don’t see anyone who is just putting in his shift—instead, you see the passion of the owners reflected throughout the company. The other principles, including John Kosmidis, Executive Vice President, and Allan Marrus, Chief Administrative Officer, are like part of the family.
The facilities, processes, and people at Prime delivered an educational, amazing experience that gave us a clear look into what actually happens in a prime meat-processing center. While the latest in tools and technology are used there, this company also believes in the craft of butchering, turning it into an art.
Thanks to Smith & Wollensky for inviting us to go along on one of their visits. Their executive chef, Matthew King, goes periodically—and after visiting, we suspect he goes because of the kindred spirits he has found there as much as for the important sourcing of his product.
So, next time you think farm to table, insert a little of the distributor in there. Without the steps they take in production, without their care and precision,
After all, it’s these kind of people—the ones who care about food—that you really want bringing you your food . . . from farm, to distributor, to table.