Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Bronwen Hanna-Korpi

President, Belcampo Meat Company
San Francisco, California

Sometimes I play this imaginary game in my head where I assemble a dream team of people to work with on a project. I never develop the actual project idea just a list of those individuals that blow my socks off in terms of energy, integrity, and creativity. It is a practice that helps me through times of unemployment or underemployment. Ever since Bronwen and I left the University of Gastronomic Sciences (UNISG) she has been at the top of my list. I have met few other individuals who have more drive and passion to get the job done. Aside from that, Bronwen has remained a great friend and always a pleasure to share a meal with. Food is all about getting excited and that she consistently does!

Bronwen grew up in Piedmont, California but left to pursue interests on the East Coast, Europe, and South America before heading back to the Bay only a few years ago. Since then, she has been instrumental in advancing the ambitious efforts of Belcampo Meat Company from a concept to five restaurant/butcher shops across California and a fully functioning ranch by Mount Shasta. Their goal is to reeducate the public on what great meat is and why it is worth the effort and price tag. They also make the hands-down best hamburger I have ever eaten.

That being said, the meat industry is complicated. Living in a world so separated from our food, consumers have little knowledge of what actually happens during the industrial process of raising animals for our consumption. If we did know, most of us would either opt for the vegetarian option or pony up for the sustainably sourced product. Instead the majority of Americans enjoy low prices and this disconnect.  Belcampo Meat Company hopes to slowly change this through their holistic approach to animal husbandry and a truly ranch to table supply chain.

As a busy lady often jetting up and down the state between restaurant locations and the ranch, Bronwen is hard to pin down. After a bit of scheduling and rescheduling she fixed me a beautiful lunch at her Cole Valley apartment in San Francisco and I took advantage of the time to catch up and probably miss the best shots of the day.

What is your role at Belcampo?

I'm responsible for our butcher shops and restaurants (we have five now, six by end of the year) - the final part of our production chain.  This means a lot of fun things but mostly making sure our food is delicious and our customers and people are happy (and of course, that we are financially successful).

What do you wish the average person knew about the meat business?

How really, really different commodity meat production is from what organic, sustainable farms do, on several different levels. I use the poultry business as a good example (and have scared a ton of people off chicken - not sorry about it): if people saw the way their $2/lb chicken was raised, they'd be so horrified. Not only that but it's just so so much more expensive to raise meat the responsible way.  People don't get how vast the contrast is, which makes it tough for them to understand the difference in pricing. We'll get there though...

Do you have a mentor?

There are so many people who have taught me in all sorts of ways throughout the years - not just in the food business.  From Carin and Bob at Edgartown Deli to Cristina at TVT Records.  Our CEO, Anya, though is unendingly supportive and encouraging in terms of my current professional development.  I'm really lucky.

Inspiring women you look up to in food and ag?

Every woman who works on our farm (up in Gazelle, CA), two woman I worked closely with at the Tenuta di Spannocchia in Italy and their whole crew of really really inspiring ladies, Julia Childs for taking up food and cooking when she did, and all my lady friends in the business...there are too many to name.

Describe your decorative style?

Oh gosh...I am not good at decorating and I really wish I was.  If I could have my way, I'd go beachy...very California, light and airy.  I do love accents -  fun, bright patterns here and there.  We use books as decoration...our apartment is overflowing with them.

Describe your personal style?

I really love clothes (my closet door literally doesn't shut).  I like to think I do dressed up or slightly preppy hippy/bohemian, however accurate that may be.  It's important for me to look professional but I'll never wear suits so, when I'm working, I try to take parts of my weekend hippy gear and make it more...appropriate.    I also love getting really dressed up...if I had an excuse to buy a ball gown, I totally would.

What are your favorite shoes? 

I love my Beatrice Valenzuela mocs for weekends (and sometimes the farm...or when I'm in LA beacuse you can get away with way more casual stuff there).  My favorite dress up heels are these amazing antique French lace guys made by Kathtyn Amberleigh.  My favorite work heels are these wedge booties by a great Brazlian company called Osklen.  And I love my blue slip on Vans.

Best most recent meal?

Zuni blew my socks off not too long ago.  I've been going since I was little because my dad's office was around the corner. I have always loved it but the other day, it was just perfect.  There was this toast with house-cured pork and avocado...I could've eaten 30 of them. I also made a killer summer vegetable frittata the other day that was damn good.

What is your earliest food memory?

I'm not totally sure if this even happened BUT it's there in my memory:  sitting on an upside-down milk crate in the tiny Parisian apartment of my parents' friend Mitch eating cheese.  In my head, it is amazing, gooey, stinky French cheese.  This is my excuse for loving cheese so much.

What was dinner like around the Hanna-Korpi table as a kid?

My mom is an amazing cook. She made a full on, delicious meal every night. Not only that, but she was doing the organic, sustainable thing forever ago. We focused a lot on what we were eating, although I think I talked a ton so it was probably painful for everyone else (mom, dad, sister) but I recall always really loving dinner time.



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