Beastly butcher and do-gooder Mark DeNittis will honor veterans by teaching them how to break down the whole hog
Back in early January, we broke the news that master butcher Mark DeNittis had landed at Cook Street School of Culinary Arts as the director of culinary curriculum, a position he took on after closing Il Mondo Vecchio late last year, following a series of back-and-forth discussions with the USDA concerning the operation of his salumeria.
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Much of his curriculum at Cook Street focuses, not surprisingly, on butchery, but he's expanding his butchering expertise well beyond his classroom of chef-aspiring students.
The cooking school just partnered with with the Denver Office of Economic Development to launch a butchery class specifically geared toward veterans and those who are displaced or underemployed in the workforce. "This is a huge opportunity for Cook Street to work directly with the City of Denver and the Colorado Department of Veterans Affairs to teach individuals the foundations of butchery found throughout the foodservice industry," says DeNittis, adding that the two agencies are footing the bill for registration and required materials for those who qualify for the hands-on, eight-day, once a week program, which is the only butchery course that's state-accredited and approved for continuing education points with the American Culinary Federation.
The inaugural class, of which there are sixteen students, begins on April 1, and at the end of the class series, each newly graduated butcher will walk away with a certificate of completion. Even better: the Cook Street culinary crew will offer job placement assistance for all of the participants.
"The network of butchers, chefs and members of the processing industry is tremendous," says DeNittis. "There are several meat and butchery groups -- the Meat Cutters Club and the Butcher's Guild, for example -- that have played an amazing role in helping elevate the spotlight of the butchery movement," and even more important, continues DeNittis, is that "they've opened the doors for job placement nationally and, in some instances, internationally. Once a person completes the course, the team at Cook Street will work to find them employment utilizing their new skills."
DeNittis, also an accomplished chef, could have chosen another cooking discipline, but this is a guy who trots around meat hooks in his trunk -- and butchery is in his blood.
"Butchery is back, both locally and nationally, and it's spanning across industry segments from restaurants and hotels to clubs and markets," says DeNittis. "I'm honored and eager for Cook Street to be a part of providing a useful, meaningful and marketable skill sets that individuals can build upon to succeed in a down economy," he adds.
And Terry Freeman, COO, of Cook Street, echoes DeNittis's sentiments. "Two years ago, we began the process of creating a butchery program at Cook Street, and since Denver already had someone doing whole hog breakdowns -- Mark -- we began discussing his vision for a butchery program through Cook Street," says Freeman. "Butchery is a craft that deserves preservation, and I love seeing an increased level of need in the marketplace. It's yet another way we are reclaiming our connection to food."