I recently had the opportunity to speak with the witty Rahm Fama, star of the Food Network’s new show Meat & Potatoes. Rahm is formerly a cattle rancher and restaurant chef and shares his vast professional knowledge with viewers on his new show about all-things meat. Follow Rahm and his meat obsession as he travels across the United States: barbecue in Texas and Kansas City; prime steak at David Burke’s; wild boar, elk and buffalo in Fort Worth, Texas; smoked meat sandwiches in Brooklyn and a lot more mouth-watering adventures.
Interview with Rahm Fama – Star of the Food Network’s Meat and Potatoes
My readers absolutely love pork, but they sometimes complain that it’s tricky to cook. I was wondering do you have any tips for cooking pork that you could share with them?
Rahm: Well there are different areas of the pork that need to have a lot of attention and then some not so much attention. I would start with asking the butcher for, and this is slow and low is the greatest thing for pork I think. It’s hard to mess up. The crock pot, the simple crock pot. Find a great BBQ or chili recipe, start with the butt and shoulder, cube it up and just let it sit in the crock pot and let it just cook slow and low. And that’s when, that’s when it becomes easy. You don’t have to mess with it so much, but seeing it what it becomes after hours and hours and hours. Find a great either, like maybe a pork stew or even a chili or a BBQ, but I’m thinking the butt and slow and low is the easiest thing for beginning cooks. And then you
can get into the loin and the chops and there is a lot more confusion. But more really interesting stuff like headcheese and a lot of different snouts and stuff like that, that I really absolutely adore.
Now-a-days there is a stigma associated with eating red meat on a regular basis because its not generally considered healthy. Is there a way to incorporate red meat into your diet in a healthy way?
Rahm: Of course, I think everything in moderation is good. I think that a lot of red meat and even for myself as a meat connoisseur, an absolute fanatic, I also have to be very aware of what I’m eating at a consistent basis and I take a break and I go onto some pork or lamb. You know, I don’t eat red meat consistently on an everyday basis. Or there is also in moderation. So, I’m thinking, you know if you’re going to eat a big T-bone in one night, maybe you know try some veal or something the next night. Try and switch it up a little bit.
I know you should cut against the grain when you cut beef, but what does that actually do?
Rahm: So there are connective tissues all on these connective tissues. There is a certain way and there is kind of a certain way not to. Because the grain runs like a muscle – it has ribbons and tissue, and when you kind of grip against it what it’s doing is cutting all those connective tissues to allow it to be more tender and elastic. So if you cut with it, not that it’s going to be tough, but it is going to be really stringy. The whole object is you want it to fall apart in your mouth. If you cut it with the brisket with the grain then you are going to have long strings that you can probably play tug of war with it. If you cut against the grain then there’s going to be no elastic bands you’re going to be cutting it.
Why a show on meat? How did you come up with developing a show unapologetically and uninhibitedly about the love of meat?
Rahm: Well, you know I wanted to do it on cats, but Bugs Bunny would have been my biggest fan. Just kidding. I was just trying to make some sense of humor here. I think that meat is just at a culinary stand point it’s so culinary and it’s culinary fun. It’s still fun, it’s knowledgeable, it’s serious and I just think there’s just so much to it; and its complex but yet so easy. There’s just so much to it. It’s kind of like the jewel of cooking I think. And it’s a lot of different cuisines from Spanish to Italian to French to, even you know, to the American hamburger. It is widely used and we have to be culinary, constantly changing or we will get bored. And there are always changes. BBQ has evolved from one thing to another but it’s still around. It’s very competitive. Steak houses are still to this day one of America’s favorite restaurants. They are still thriving and you know there are different variations of steak houses and I just think there is just so much to it that I like and I would like to learn more and more about it everyday.
There has been this movement towards the chef butcher shop. You know meat makers that you can buy from on a regular basis and they know the best way to cook each cut. Do you see something emerging in our food culture, turning to principle items that they should be bought from by your butcher?
Rahm: You know I think you just answered that question yourself. I’m telling you that I remember but I don’t remember the days. And I would love to remember the days, but I hate to say it but I remember the days when there were butchers. Do you remember the day maybe of the gray haired butcher that stood over the counter and everything was wrapped in the butcher paper? And he’d ask you what you were cooking that day, and you’d say I’m going to be making this. And he picked out the best cut and then he would kind of look at his fingers to make sure his fingers were all there, because it is very dangerous, and kind of a creepy job. But it was that fun butcher that I wish we had in every grocery store, rather then just cellophane wrapped packaging and you’re going ‘Ugh, what do I do with this? When do I do this?’ You have the butcher to kind of guide you. This is stew meat, your going to want to take this home for stew. You don’t know how many times I bet there is somebody going to buy tenderloin because it’s the most expensive and not cooking it properly because you just don’t know. I would love to see more butcher shops, I would love to see more charcuterie. Charcuterie is so fascinating and really about now is the art of charcuterie. And the fact that the restaurants are doing it now themselves is absolutely amazing.
Will you ever get the opportunity to cover these butchers and the more obscure cuts of meat that they tend to lean towards? Someplaces, you can order game meat like rabbit, and venison. These cuts of meat are delicious but people don’t really cook them that much anymore because it’s not so readily available unless it’s a regional thing.
Rahm: Yes, I would hope to cover all that stuff in the future
of my show. Everything from dry-aging, to not only meats, but charcuteries and headcheese and the different cuts that people have never seen before. And get into game, and get into a lot of different areas of beef that or meat in general that people haven’t seen. Not so much exotic but on an interesting level. You know, I want the ‘wow’ factor.
Do you have any vegetarian friends left? And so what do they think of the show?
Rahm: Yeah, I have a lot. One, they are very proud of me. Two, I’m not a man that is just into the slaughtering of many animals as I can and cooking them, I know and appreciate. Being a rancher, my mom is a third generation rancher. I was raised on a ranch and I know what it takes to get from point A to point B and I appreciate that fact, and there is a reason why it comes out in my sleep so much is the fact that I am so passionate because I do know what it takes. And I express that to all my vegetarian friends because I am very passionate and very caring from where the
food does come from. And how it gets to the table and what it takes to get to the table. And you know a lot of my friends are vegetarian by choice and a lot of them are vegetarian by health. I still do love and adore vegetables, it just happens that I just love the history the energy and the time it takes to put meat on the table.
Given the title of the show it makes it sound like every episode is going to have some kind of meat accompanied by potatoes. I’m assuming that this is not the case and you’re going to branch out from there will there be more then just meat and potatoes?
Rahm: Meat and potatoes I think for the name. I think for the title is just kind of a quirky way of saying it. Not a quirky way, but ‘meat and potatoes’ is saying meat and sides. Maybe it will be steak and something great that goes with that steak at this particular time. Because you know a lot of different places that I visited is not necessarily just potatoes but maybe hamburger with this great slaw. Or you know there are different ways to cook fries and yes granted they are potatoes but its not just potatoes, it’s not just mashed potatoes. But not everybody in the world knows what poutine is. But it’s wonderful, fries doused in gravy and cheese curds melted all over it from the top, and this particular restaurant actually puts their smoked meat on top of it which is, you can just eat a ton of them. It’s absolutely fun and delicious. You get what I’m saying right, when it’s kind of like ‘this and this’. It’s meat and potatoes, but it certainly is not always going to be meat and potatoes. But it will be some kind of meat and its accompaniment.
Let me ask you, the different places that you go to on the show – how did you come up with picking which place to go to, and which place to feature?
Rahm: You know, and that is very difficult because I wanted to go to every restaurant I possibly could. And they’re like “Rahm — pipe down you have to chill out buddy.” There’s a team of great people that researched this in the production company, and there are actually two people in the production company and there are actually two people in the office that researched this. One of them we wanted to be different because our Food Network shows do visit a lot of other places, and we didn’t want to go to these same places. We wanted it to be different – not necessarily a steak house that we’ve been to before or a very popular steak house. But maybe a hole in the wall steak house that no one knew about, but not necessarily a diner, dives place. Something different. We wanted to make it something different and there are a team of people that do research. And they find out where to go, and it’s not necessarily the best or the most popular, it’s just something that we think would make great for people to watch. Make great TV for them to watch. For instance Prime and Beyond is a great steak house in a residential area but no one, I would have never known to go there. You pull up, it’s this little building and its one of the best steak houses I have been to date. It was a lot of fun I mean mixing Korean with steak house was just so fun. And the little family was so cute. All the family was. The kids were there. It was just…I think that’s how it’s used, I think they are just looking for something that just makes different TV.
Everyone has a guilty pleasure food. You know that one you eat when nobody else is around. What’s yours?
Rahm: You really wanna know? Okay. And this is really guilty because I love pork rinds. Yeah, pork rinds are what my grandfather showed us chicharrones when we were in Mexico. Pork rinds are a little bit more light and fluffy, chicharrones have more meat to them. And what I do is get my homemade tortillas – I do make all the time – roll them out, flame them on my little open fire, maybe my stove or something. Then I put my chicharrones on it. Basically it is pork belly with a lot of fat on it. Fried them and put a lot of fat on it with loads of salt. You wanted it. You wanted it. That’s my guilty pleasure.
Do you have a favorite city that you have visited so far on the show?
Rahm: Oh god you guys are horrible with these favorite things. They are all great. All great. Of course I love New York. I’ve been to New York; I’ve lived in New York for a small amount of time. Austin was awesome; Austin was one of my favorite cities. But I really had a fun attachment with Chicago for some reason. I really loved
it! Chicago was a lot of fun, it’s unbelievably clean. I couldn’t believe it. It was remarkable to see such a big city that was clean; and the amount of culinary talent that is packed into one little city with the art. There is something called The Bean that is a giant metal ball in the center of the city that I just fell in love with. The amount of just culinary. Culinary, culinary, culinary. The time I got there, we were filming there happened to be a food festival going on. It was just two days long and it took that long to get through all the booths; and the amount of variety of culinary booths. Like everything from fried chicken to, of course the Chicago hot dog. The Chicago deep dish pizza, my first time I ever had it and it really is that great, but I piled it on with meat of course! I could keep going, I really like Chicago.
So, as a fun question, is there anything that you would like to try that you have not tried yet?
Rahm: Wow, I’d like to; but I have almost tried everything.
I haven’t tried everything, but like a different type of cuisine? Hmm. Well of course I would love to. God, that’s a hard question what would I love to try. That is a tough question. What would I love to try? Bird, you know bird cooked in broth. Of course, every culinary wants to try one of those but it’s just not nice. I’ve had foie gras. You know what I would love to try, real goose foie gras. But you know you get the duck foie gras in America. I’ve never had the real goose foie gras in France, never. Or, there is a region of lamb in the Normandy. It’s called the Normandy lamb. The lamb graze on the grass during low tide, and then at high tide the grass is saturated with salt water but then the tide goes down again and the lamb get to graze on the salt-rich grass. They are just saturated in salt and they actually become a little ditzy because the salt content is so high, but the flesh, and the meat, and the actual lamb itself is so delicious because of their diet is salt rich grass that it is absolutely phenomenal and it’s only in Normandy. Isn’t that neat? I read it about it and I always wanted to try it. Can you put that instead of foie gras?
What do you feel it is that will have Meat and Potatoes stand apart from other food shows?
Rahm: You know Food Network does love the travel shows. People love travel shows and travel shows are fun because you get to check out all the different stuff and everybody has meat. I think what I want to do is just separate it by giving it my own fun, charismatic flair to it. Making it different and educational, definitely tasty, and I want to surprise people. I want to surprise you. My goal is to make it be as different as possible by just being myself. By trying to make the show as different as possible. Does that make any sense? I went back and forth but I want to make it as fun as possible and I want everybody to watch it with me so I’ve gotta make it different.
You said that this show is educational, what do you want to teach your viewers?
Rahm: Maybe the history, I want to teach them you know different cutting methods, different braisng methods. Why we do this, why we don’t do this. Where our food comes from mainly. A lot of viewers see food you know meat. I don’t want to say meat constantly like meat, meat, meat. But a lot of culinarians and people that are buying food that is already butchered and it’s kind of like already in a cellophane package, maybe in a box. I want to get it from where this particular cut comes from and where this particular cut is used because as this animal uses this muscle a lot then you need to braise it. This muscle isn’t used at all and that’s why you need to cook it medium rare because it will dry up and be kind of taste less. That kind of stuff.
And you said you want to surprise your viewers, what kind of surprises would they have in store?
Rahm: You’re going to have to watch! No I could give you some hints. You know I dance with some ladies in Austin, Texas to some country music. We had this big feast at a place called Papa Cristo’s, a wonderful Greek restaurant where I belly danced a little bit, you know I went to salt cave at David Burke Steak House and saw for my first time a bacon candle. It’s a candle that is made out of bacon fat that you pour over the scallops. I rode a bull! I rode a mechanical bull. I could keep going on and on, but there’s not going to be any surprises of the show. I have really been put on the edge and I’ve really lived on the edge to make the show. People are like “Are you really going to do that?” Sure I am going to stuff this whole hamburger in my face and have fun with it who knows. The main thing is have fun, be myself, be spontaneous. If you want to ride the mechanical bull try to last eight seconds and I did it.