Butchery is an ancient art. Like sculptors that transform raw materials into something beautiful to behold, skilled butchers use their expertise to bone and trim large primal pieces of meat into steaks, roasts, and other cuts familiar to consumers. The trade requires finesse, precision, and razor-sharp tools paired with a strong grasp of anatomy.
Butcher Kent Schoberle is dedicated to honing his craft. Schoberle directs the knife-wielding force behind the counter at Thistle Meats–the hot new whole animal butcher shop that opened in the heart of downtown Petaluma earlier this year.
The store is a dream-come-true for business partners Molly Best and Lisa Modica who support local, family owned ranches that practice humane husbandry and sustainable stewardship. True to their “locavore” vision, all the meats in their butcher shop are sourced exclusively from top quality North Bay producers including Stemple Creek Ranch, Magruder Ranch, and Green Star Farm.
Thistle Meats caters to savvy carnivores who share this sustainable ethos. Unlike commercial “box meat” production facilities that use only the choice parts of the animal, the shop’s “whole animal” philosophy honors both the craft of butchery and the creature by using all its parts–down to the fat, scrap, and bones. This age-old approach to the trade is experiencing a renaissance in specialty shops like this one. Enter Kent Schoberle.
Schoberle’s path to butchery had its twists and turns. A student of Film Studies and Fine Arts at the University of New Mexico, he moved to Berkeley in 2004 to pursue a career in the film industry. He enrolled in a two-year intensive program at Expressions College while working at an East Bay production companyas a digital animator where he specialized in building anatomy and creatures. To make ends meet, he got a job as a line cook at Downtown Restaurant in Berkeley. “That experience opened my eyes to the world of local, seasonal, sustainable food,” says Kent reflectively.
Though he continued to work in film, he found himself consumed by thoughts of food and cooking. His familiarity with anatomy and musculature as an animator made butchery a natural fit. “I was fascinated by the animal’s journey from farm to plate,” he says thoughtfully adding, “there was a mystery behind it I wanted to understand.”
Trading his computer job for a set of knives was a big leap, but it felt right. He dove into his new passion by volunteering at pasture-based farms to learn about the pigs, sheep, lambs, goats, and chickens being raised there. Gaining practical experience gave him the confidence to approach Ryan Farr, a fine dining chef who had earned notoriety in the kitchens at high-end restaurants like Fifth Floor and Orson in San Francisco. As it happened, Farr was holding butchery classes at a community kitchen in the city, and Schoberle got his foot in the door by volunteering to wash dishes.
His hard work ethic eventually earned him a paid position with Farr who was in the process of launching 4505 Meats–a sustainably focused, whole-animal butcher shop in San Francisco’s Mission District. Over the next four years, Schoberle worked his way up to head butcher at the fast-growing company by teaching butchery classes, and later helping open the 4505 Meats Butcher Shop.
When he heard rumors about a whole-animal butcher shop opening in Petaluma, Shoberle jumped at the chance to be involved. “I’ve always loved this area and I was ready to make a change,” he says. He instantly hit it off with Thistle Meats co-owner Molly Best and never looked back. “I’m grateful for this chance to support the local ranch community in an integral way,” he says with his characteristic smile adding, “We live in a cutting-edge environment here.”
No pun intended.