This article is featured in the spring 2017 edition of Centrepiece magazine.
The evidence lies in two Louisville enterprises, Blue Dog Bakery & Café and the new Red Hog Artisan Meat butcher shop and restaurant, both owned by Garrett and her husband, Bob Hancock. After stints in kitchens as far away as France, Paynter came aboard first at Blue Dog, helping Hancock break down his heritage hogs. Paynter now oversees the whole-animal butchery that makes Red Hog so special.
Opened in fall 2016, Red Hog fulfills Garrett and Hancock’s dream of better using the red wattle and mulefoot pigs they raise in Oldham County outside Louisville. Menus and products are ever-changing. On any given day you can find fresh and cured items both in the butcher shop and on the restaurant menu. House-made sausages, country pâté, pancetta, bacon, and Blue Dog breads complement the array of poultry, beef, lamb, and pork from local farms that meet Red Hog’s stringent standards. The best meat begins with proper treatment of the animals; Red Hog’s are raised locally, sustainably, and humanely.
“If animals are well taken care of, it shows in the final product,” says Garrett. “Our hogs get to be in the dirt, which is what they love. We vet all the farmers we work with to make sure they use non-GMO feed and practice sustainable agriculture.”
An American studies major at Centre, Garrett began her career not in food, but in historic preservation. The skill set would lend itself well to opening Red Hog, which is in a repurposed gas station.
“I loved the renovation,” she says. “I like working with people, hiring personnel, interfacing with customers, keeping the books. Restaurants require thinking on your feet, working with people, and managing time. A Centre education helps you do anything that involves analytical thinking.”
Hancock is a culinary school graduate who first witnessed butchering as a child on his grandfather’s farm. Paynter, in turn, worked in a Strasbourg restaurant during his time with the Centre study-abroad program. He later cooked in Jackson Hole, Wyo.—which had other benefits.
“I would snowboard by day and cook at night,” he says.
Paynter eventually landed at Louisville’s Proof on Main, where he polished his charcuterie skills and further developed an interest in curing meat. He met Garrett and Hancock when Blue Dog hosted his rehearsal dinner. When the couple were ready to open Red Hog, they knew just the person to help. In preparation for the new venture, Hancock sent Paynter to butcher shops all over the country, where he learned the trade inside and out. His on-the-job training included a stint on the kill floor of a nearby meat processing facility.
“It turned out I liked making sausage better than fine dining,” Paynter says. “It’s very old-school, an art almost lost. It takes a lot of patience. But I love the end product that comes from a lot of labor and patience and skill.”
Garrett says of turning to Paynter for her new venture: “He was enthusiastic and very intelligent, and he’s a Centre grad, the type of person who can do that sort of thing.”
Paynter now faces two new adventures—twin girls who were born in fall 2016 just as Red Hog opened.
But Red Hog is still the team’s original baby, one that has taken its first steps and is ready to run. Which is good news, not just for Louisville, but beyond.
“So many small farmers are struggling,” says Garrett. “It’s great working with them. We have to get customers to buy into the concept. It’s a big turn for people, eating fresh, high-quality meats. The result is customers are amazed at the flavor of our products, the difference naturally raised meat makes.”
By Laura Boswell ’94
March 16, 2017
Laura Boswell ’94 is a writer and marketing manager in Arlington, Va.