Have you ever seen Chef Josh and Alice OUT of the BLR kitchen? Well last month they had an incredible experience touring the Buckhead Beef facility in Atlanta…a visit they were on the waiting list for TWO YEARS before they were invited to go! Buckhead Beef serves the entire Southeast Region, and has been in business since 1982, with the family organization itself going back a total of 80 years.
“It was a real honor for Alice and myself to be invited to see the beef and fish production from start to finish, and to see the whole process and tour. There was a lot of eye opening information and it improved our confidence so much about carrying their product at Bear Lake Reserve.”
– Chef Josh
The first impression upon arriving is that the building is HUGE! It doesn’t look like much on the outside, but once inside, everything changed.
Cleanliness is everything in a professional kitchen, and the Buckhead Beef staff were masters. Just to enter the building, Josh and Alice had to don THREE LAYERS of covering over their street clothes:
- They wore one set of color-coded scrubs to indicate they were visitors
- They wore a second set of color-coded scrubs that cleared them to enter certain protected areas of the facility
- Lastly, they each had to wear a huge heavy jacket to protect them from the refrigerated chill of the interior
Once they got inside, the first area they saw was the 10,000 sq ft warehouse, which was one big giant open room with different sections divided throughout. They said it was like walking into a Sam’s Club sized room but every shelf was beef and fish!
Josh and Alice’s first impression? Everything inside was incredibly clean and sterile, you could even say it was clinically sterile! Every room in the huge interior space was temperature and moisture controlled. There was even a sanitizing fog that was released periodically. Cleanliness is SO important, especially with meat handling. It’s not just about good hygiene, it’s about food safety, and the standards at Buckhead Beef were impressive. Across the entire property of about eight different areas that Joshh and Alice saw including the warehouse, everyone had their space, and everything worked like clockwork with the different people’s sections all working together.
The other thing they noticed is how HAPPY all the staff were! Workers are treated well, and it just seemed like an incredibly positive work environment. Everyone had a smile to offer wherever they went! It was clear the employees were also very talented and communicated very well. Everyone worked together so supportively and efficiently.
Josh and Alice have been working with Buckhead Beef products for over 14 years, and were excited to introduce some of their higher grade meats for specials at Bear Lake Reserve in 2015/16. They had already known that Buckhead Beef had excellent practices around sustainability and sourcing of the meat, but touring the facility and seeing how thoroughly the process is documented and the attention to detail — right down to including a metal detector in their procedures — spoke to a level of thoroughness and care going into every ounce of meat that was just inspirational.
There are strict criteria maintained by the USDA to grade beef quality. USDA Choice is the highest non-specialized category (for example, the Ribeye at BLR is USDA Choice). A category above that is Black Angus USDA Certification. There are a ton of strict criteria that must be met in order to qualify for this certification, including maintaining a certain condition of the farms all the way down to the treatment and diet of the individual animals. Black Angus Beef is what is used primarily at Bear Lake Reserve. If you’ve had the Beef Short Rip (a very popular choice), or the New York Strip Steak, both of these were Buckhead Beef specialty cuts. They’ve shown up both in specials and as an occasional main menu item.
Josh and Alice are both so excited to continue to offer Buckhead Beef products, and having the opportunity to tour their home facility deepened their appreciation even more for the incredible quality and care that goes into producing these cuts of meat. Despite the incredible volume — Buckhead Beef processes over 100,000 lbs of beef per week! — no detail of quality control is too small. Even the dates on the dry-aged beef were proprietary, and protected!
Alice concluded, “We always take pride in what we do, but our confidence is even higher now, to know how much care they take, to feel so much confidence in sitting down and eating the food. To know how clean it was and even how happy the employees were. All of that matters.”
Thanks so much to Josh and Alice for taking the time to explore and learn about Buckhead Beef! You can learn more about Buckhead Beef by clicking here.
In the shoulder season, Josh and Alice will be looking for other really cool culinary projects and visits like the one to Buckhead Beef, so look for more stories in the future.
“All of these opportunities are very important to us and VERY important to the development of the culinary experience here at BLR.”
– Chef Josh
In fact the next adventure is already planned: This weekend, Josh is extremely excited to be traveling to Kiawah, SC to represent BLR and work with Chef Merrit Brady from the Pampered Palate at the 12th annual Gourmet and Grapes event. Some may remember Chef Merrit from the fantastic Culinary Experience he prepared at BLR last year. Josh says, “We are extremely excited to cook for the Wine Odyssey Gala in the beautiful Grand Oaks Ballroom on Saturday February 1st! If anyone happens to be in the area, please stop by and say hello!”