Cathie Anderson

Taylor’s Market butchers wow the judges in Oakland’s Flying Knives contest

Published: Monday, Sep. 30, 2013 - 9:20 pm

Other competitors in the butchery competition at Oakland’s Eat Real Festival backed down rather than face David Budworth, aka “Dave the Butcher,” but Taylor Market’s Danny Johnson pulled out his knives and saws and got to work last Saturday.

Johnson and two of his employees – meat manager Paul Carras and butcher Mitch Lind – wowed the judges and brought home the 2013 grand champion trophy to Taylor’s, 2900 Freeport Blvd., in Sacramento.

“We showed the judges some things they’d never seen before,” Johnson said. “They were blown away. Paul cut the femur bone in half. They’d never seen anybody do that with a handsaw before. I showed them an old-fashioned rump roast, with the bone in, just like the one that’s in the counter.”

Johnson’s wife and business partner, Kathy Johnson, was in the audience, and she told him later that she could tell from the judge’s body language that his team had carried the day. The Taylor’s team, however, had been in their own little world as they worked, and they weren’t so sure their display had a chance until the crowd surged toward them going wild.

“They were talking to us and saying, ‘You guys are the winners. If you guys don’t win, we’re protesting,’” Johnson said.

There’s always next year for Budworth, who is the house butcher at Marina Meats and Avedano's Holly Park Market in San Francisco.

Reinventing jerky

Alex Lane traveled a lot of miles doing odd jobs to work his way through community college, and he wanted a high-protein snack that would satisfy his hunger for long periods.

He chose beef jerky, and he got a real education.

“I was looking at the entire market and all the beef jerky companies, and I was like, ‘These all suck. I don’t understand why no one’s doing it better.’”

He and his business partner Sarah Hellesen introduced their company, Get Some Jerky, and their line of products at farmers markets from Concord to Tahoe this last summer. They currently have five flavors – peppercorn, sweet and spicy, black label whiskey, inferno and mesquite barbecue – but they are working on more.

They use a moist beef brisket for their product, Lane said, and they add no preservatives. The only monosodium glutamate, or MSG, is what’s found in the soy sauce.

Lane acknowledged that he’s not the only jerky lover in the nation trying to reinvent a product that many people view as dry and over-processed. Indeed, search the web for “gourmet jerky,” and you’ll find companies such as Krave, Fat Man’s Beef Jerky and Kings County Jerky Co. promising better flavor and texture.

Lane said he’s probably sold about 10,000 pouches of his jerky, which goes for about $7 at, Compton’s in east Sacramento and the UC Davis bookstore, among other retail outlets. Both Lane and Hellesen attended UC Davis. He still needs to complete a couple of classes to get his degree in political science, and she graduated with a degree in English.

No keys for Tikka Tikka

Sam Swaleh became “amu” – Persian for uncle – not only to his nephews Shaun and Michael Swaleh but also to celebrity chef Tyler Florence as their Tikka Tikka Taco team competed in the Food Network’s “Great Food Truck Race.”

Sadly, the Swalehs didn’t drive away with a food truck valued at $100,000 in Sunday’s finale. The prize went to the Aloha Plate guys. As I noted in Saturday’s column, Swaleh is partnering with his brother Ali Swaleh to launch a used-car business, Swaleh Motor Sales, in Rocklin. Shaun Swaleh, an Iraqi War veteran, plans to work for his Amu Ali and Amu Sam until the family can get their food truck off the ground.

Florence said goodbye to the Tikka Tikka team only after announcing that he would make a $2,500 donation to the Fallen Patriot Fund in honor of a close friend of Shaun’s who died in the war.

“I’ve seen from both teams what it takes to be a winner: commitment, integrity and teamwork,” Florence said in his final address to the Swalehs and the Aloha Plate team. “Tikka Tikka Taco, I look at your team and I have nothing but admiration. Mike, Shaun, the love that you’ve shown Amu here is what life’s all about – family.”

Call The Bee’s Cathie Anderson, (916) 321-1193. Follow her on Twitter @CathieA_SacBee.

Read more articles by Cathie Anderson

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