We sat with Stephen Pocock, head Salumiere at Boccalone in the San Francisco Bay Area to find out about how he got started in the business and what’s most important to him. Stephen has been working with Chris Cosentino since Incanto, and is excited to help take Boccalone to new heights in the near future.
How did you get into making charcuterie?
I moved back to the Bay Area in early 2005, after spending the last thirteen years in Southern California working in the film and television industry. I decided eventually that I needed to get out and I knew I wanted to return back to the Bay Area. I got some training at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and ended up at Incanto restaurant chopping vegetables and working the garde manger station.
I had been playing around at that time with preservation and curing and smoking on my own, just for fun, so I had this interest in meat curing and salumi and charcuterie. I realized towards the end of my training that at my age, starting at the bottom of the restaurant world was not something I wanted to do. Luckily, Mark and Chris were opening Boccalone and offered me a job.
Chris’s family had made sausages on the east coast and he had done some projects with it in the restaurant, so we all learned how to make salumi on a production scale together. There were hiccups along the way, but we figured out fermentation, we figured out drying, production scheduling, sourcing ingredients, and grew the business together. I started out from not knowing a lot to becoming a Salumiere and running the whole show. I’ve guess you could say I’ve grown with this company professionally and personally as the company itself has grown.
Do you see a movement happening with charcuterie and in-house salumi across America?
Definitely. We, I think, were at the forefront of what’s happening now with other companies and restaurants. La Quercia, Cremeneli, Olympia Provisions and other companies all over the country started years ago, and now there are chefs making it all over the country, from South Carolina to Oregon, Chicago. People are really focusing back on the craft of making more than just pancetta. Salami is a tougher nut to crack because it has a number of steps in it, it’s more than just making a mortadella or lonza. When you start grinding, you open up a whole series of hazards that you need to overcome to make the food safe. That’s really one of the things that really needs professional guidance.
Why does sourcing quality meats matter to you?
It’s all about the pork, the animals and how they’re treated. The quality of the meat starts with how the animal is raised and what it eats and how it’s treated. With all of our products, we want you to taste the pork. We don’t want you to bite into a salami and just taste the spice. We want to have the seasoning and salt come through, but we want, at the end, to just have the taste of pork.
Quality, overall, comes from sustainable and humane interest in American agriculture, as well as saying, “we want to make the best product possible,” because the best tasting pork comes from sustainably raised, heritage breed animals rather than just the pink pigs that people think of. We’re adamantly against confined animal feeding operations, CAFO’s. That’s been something we inherited from Incanto, where we worked with local farmers and family farmers. The farmers we use have to care the same way we do about stewardship of the land. The quality issue starts there. That’s why we work with family farmers. You get the best taste from the best treated animals.
What do you have going on for Boccalone, now or in the future?
We’re starting to work with Amazon Fresh. As a small company, we don’t currently have a wholesale business. We only sell directly to our customers at the Ferry Building, our website, and the farmers market. We’re working with Amazon Fresh so we can expand and get our products to people who don’t want to come all the way to the market, people who don’t want to pay a lot of postage. That’s really exciting for us, as we’re excited to be able to feed more people.