In a world where our food has become increasingly and frighteningly far removed from its purveyors, the timeless art of butchery represents a comforting connection to the way things used to be. There's something incomparably refreshing about having a friendly chat with a trustworthy expert about your food, especially with regard to meat.
And some of the best butchers in town are behind the counter at Marczyk Fine Foods, including Tyler DuBois.
I was there picking up some chickens for a Sunday dinner with friends; my buddy and I were thinking about making beer-can chicken and told Tyler as much. "Awesome! I love beer-can chicken," he said, adding some advice: "Make sure you drink about a quarter to half of the beer before putting it in the chicken so it won't boil over. And if you want, you can add some wood chips for a nice smoky flavor. I think we have some in the back -- let me go check."
He returned with a bag of apple wood chips, instructed us on how to use them and bid us farewell. "Let me know how it turns out," he said.
With very little effort, it turned out to be one of those meals with family and friends that makes you feel blessed. That said, I'd like to thank Avery Brewing for their delicious beers, specifically Ellie's Brown Ale. Its subtly sweet malt profile was perfect alongside the smoky, succulent chicken the beer's steam had helped cook.
I called Tyler the next day to let him know the results and to learn more about his craft. "It's really great to hear from you, man. I love getting feedback from people," he told me. His enthusiasm wasn't contrived, which made sense given his background. "I bartended for years and loved it, but I also love cooking, so I went to culinary school in Boulder and spent some time cooking in France, drinking wine and learning as much as I could. Then I got a job at Colt & Gray," he recalled.
DuBois, a Colorado native, spent two years in the kitchen at Colt & Gray before deciding to try something new. "As a home cook, I've always loved Marczyk's and shopped here regularly, but it wasn't until I saw head butcher Jimmy 'the butcher' [Cross] compete in the Cochon 555 butcher competition last year that I realized I wanted to work here. It was like poetry watching him break down an animal. It was a new skill set, and I really wanted to learn from Jimmy, the best butcher in the state, in my opinion."
And for the past six months, DuBois has been doing just that, working the counter and making it his home. "I love talking to people. I missed that about bartending, and it's great to talk food with our customers. I'm learning a ton from Jimmy about butchering, as well; utilizing an entire animal and sharing it with people, it's a lost art, really."
As is DuBois's next project. "My buddy Justin Parks and I have been gardening and pickling the leftovers and really loving the results, so two years ago, we decided to start a pickling company called the Real Dill, and this year, we'll be ready to go to market," said DuBois. "We'll be doing some really unique stuff -- artisan pickles with local ingredients -- I'm really excited."
Real Dill pickles will be available this summer at local farmers' markets and at Marczyk's, where DuBois will continue to hone his butchery skills. "Pickling is my long-term goal, but this is a great job and a great company to work for."
1 whole chicken, neck and giblets removed (Marczyk carries some wonderful grass-fed birds from Boulder) 2 tablespoons olive oil 3 tablespoons dry spice rub (we tried two, a garlic-lemon mix and a smoked-paprika-based mix; the paprika won) Salt and pepper to taste 1 can craft beer Apple wood chips
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1. Rub chicken with olive oil and season liberally with dry spice rub. 2. Season with salt and pepper. 3. Wet wood chips and place in some foil. 4. Crack the beer and drink half. 5. Place beer can in bottom of chicken and arrange upright on the grill. 6. Cook over indirect, medium heat for about 1 1/2 hours or until the inside of the thigh reaches 170 degrees.