A few months ago, during the merry month of May, Elise Wiggins, exec chef of Panzano, took some time away from her downtown Italian restaurant to do a stagisti with Dario Cecchini, the rock star butcher who's made an international name for himself in the diminutive town of Panzano, in Italy's Chianti region, where he's the legendary face behind Antica Macelleria Cecchinia, his small, world-renowned, family-owned artisanal butcher shop. See also: What Elise Wiggins Learned in Italy: You're never too old to learn! Chef and Tell: Elise Wiggins of Panzano
But while his butcher shop isn't big, the showman who deftly butchered part of a pig last night at Panzano in full view of a captive audience, is larger than life, his flamboyantly wild red pants a fitting wardrobe addition to his booming Tuscan-accented voice, ruddy face, broad shoulders, hearty laugh and convivial demeanor.
Cecchini, who's practiced -- and perfected -- the art of butchery for forty years, spent a good thirty minutes last night beautifully wielding an enviable selection of cleavers and knives, trading quips with his wife, Kim, who translated, and emphasizing the fervor that fuels his fire. "Using whole animals," he declared, is "a harmonious concept. Every single part is excellent, from the foot, to the tail, to the nose, and I've always sought to to put passion into my work -- it's the same passion I bring to you tonight." And the "job of a butcher," he added is "the most delicate on the food chain.
The demonstration, where Cecchini showed the audience how to prepare "arista in porchetta," was followed by a four-course dinner, cooked by Wiggins, who called Cecchini a "master." "He turned my life upside down," she told the crowd. "And when I was working with him in Italy, he showed me everything and shared all of his secrets and recipes, and that's the true testament of a teacher." She added, too, that she'll "never look at a pig or a cow the same way ever again."
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If you missed last night's demonstration and dinner, book an airline ticket to Tuscany...or just feast on the photos on the following pages.