Chefs Collaborative recently caught up with new member, Brady Lowe, the man behind Cochon555, PRIMAL and Protein University, three platforms on which chefs are advocating for sustainable meat and a return to the art of butchery.  Read on to find out more about Brady’s background and his current and upcoming projects.

Chefs Collaborative: Could you tell us about yourself and a little about your culinary background?
Brady Lowe: I have a background in fine wine and artisan cheese.  My mission is to execute great culinary experiences in the luxury market and beyond.  I work closely with a clientele that includes everyone from dignitaries and executives to small family-owned businesses. I am passionate about increasing the livelihood of others, such as farmers and non-profit organizations, and I feel fortunate to share my passion through my company.

Most recently, I expanded my reach to bring one-of-a kind culinary experiences to the general public. In early 2009, Taste Network began COCHON 555, a ten city culinary tour where renowned chefs prepare heritage pigs in a head to toe competition. The event showcases 5 chefs, 5 pigs and 5 winemakers in a friendly competition for the cause of promoting breed diversity and whole animal utilization. In 2010, COCHON 555 teamed up with Food + Wine Magazine for the Grand Finale showcase during the Classic in Aspen. The tour, now in its third year, brings together top chefs, winemakers, farmers, thought-leaders, foodies, media and responsible consumers to celebrate artisan producers. In November 2009, the company launched, Protein University and PRIMAL, a foundation event series in the world of butchers and chefs promoting whole animal utilization and family farms. The successful events feature theatre cooking, multi-animal breakdown demonstrations, niche products and a focus for keeping the culinary arts of butchery alive.

I was born and raised in Des Moines and received my bachelors from the University of Iowa. I currently live in Atlanta, Georgia, but spend most of my time on the road… tasting my way across the country while promoting the whole animals, grape clusters and the niche farm movement. In 2010-2011, Taste Network events will provide more than 15,000 guest experiences while the websites will be visited around 500,000 times online.

C.C.: What past experiences shaped your attitude towards food?
B.L.: When in college, I learned the importance of the good cigar. From the draw to the finish, the story of each smoke taught me the foundations of niche marketing since that is how I paid the bills. Soon after college I found myself in fine-dining learning about wine and great cheeses which was an exact parallel to the cigar and those background stories I romanticized about. From there I found myself in a very unique position one night that shaped my life forever. I perfectly paired a wine and cheese for a guest and from that moment forward, I knew sharing new experiences through first-class education would be my future. In 2002, I started Taste Network “wine & cheese pairings through education” and since then, I have been gaining momentum, and weight 🙂

C.C.: Have you always been a sustainable foodie or did you have a revelation at some point?
B.L.: I found myself sharing the same platform and clients as catering companies. We would go back and forth on UNDERSTANDING my added value contracts. My clients could not distinguish my price point from banquets. I was losing money matching someone else’s price point in order to survive. I wanted to educate my clients and one evening one of my chefs showed up with a grocery bag of junk food to get us by at our event. That was my revelation, no more junk food – my clients needed to where their food was coming from no matter the cost. They paid high dollars to understand the background on the wines so why was food so unimportant? I saw the parallel once again I saw with wine and cheese education, this time with the responsible sourcing of food. Farms were going to be the next star, people were hungry for the basics on where their food was coming from. I was going to give it to them.

C.C.: What inspired Protein University, and how did it begin?
Cochon555 inspired ProteinU. C555 is very focused on its cause and I felt like all the other proteins wanted to play but did not have the opportunity. We wanted to create something all encompassing. Primal was invented out of a couple selfish ideas of roasting whole animals and wood fired cooking techniques. Under further exploration, I was developing cooking arenas around fire pits and I wanted to step away all new concepts from culinary competitions. One night, at dinner with my friend Chris Cosentino, I explained my next event concept and he said ”have you seen the book Seven Fires?” and I said “NO” and he said, “Well you just explained the book to me.” – from the moment forward I wanted to bring fire-cooking and whole animal cooking of South America to our culture. I bought everyone I knew the Seven Fires book. Primal became a challenge.

Along with any challenges come financial obstacles and Primal was much heavier than Cochon555. I was looking for a business partner and found Anthony Renda. Since our first meeting, we shared the same philosophies, overlapped passions for food and really combined our resources to make Primal a large event in the upcoming years. We needed a business name to operate and did not want to just have a production company name and Taste Network was already a sole-proprietorship.   We wanted our entity to give something back to the culinary community while driving the art of butchery back into kitchens and cutrooms across America, from there Protein University was born. My background in brand development and ideation combined with Anthony’s passion in the film industry lead us into a concept that helps push today’s food movement in the right direction.

C.C.: What kind of response have you been seeing from chefs and butchers?  What are some of the challenges you see to promoting sustainable practices?
B.L.: The response has been overwhelming in the first two months. We have been fortunate to continue a conversation that stared before us. We want to shepherd the movement into a new direction, leading chefs and butchers to share experiences and to inspire each other.

Sustainable to me means, “making things work in a system” and there are challenges to promoting the practice of safe and responsible foods. Most important of these issues to me; paying the people who work hard in slaughterhouses a good wage while holding processors to higher standards. Want to know who the butcher is in today’s system? It’s your salesperson. The voice on the other end of the cell phone who makes sure you get it on time, its what you want, and its always right! We are system focused on the promoting the chef, the farm and the butcher. What if we romanticized the hard working boys and girls on the slaughterhouse floor? We know they exist, they are working hard and mark my words – they will fall out of love with the movement if we don’t appreciate what they are doing. They are a niche market waiting to be noticed. Everyone has heard the complaints by farmers and chefs about the processors. What if this is the new direction? What if we had some rock star abattoirs in the mix? What if the slaughterhouse folks got romantic with some investors? Would they start opening small family-run USDA facilities in regional locations around the country? Would a millionaire see the worth of opening 25 VALUE-ADDED processors around the country for the passionate food-based folks? 25 new cure rooms and cutfloors – hold on here – are we talking about whole animal utilization before industrial agriculture? Would that system work? Right now, we are a hard working class very passionate about raising some tasty food, but start the journey of the beast with people who do not care. It’s like dropping your child off at 7-Eleven for daycare. That to me, is not working.

C.C.: How was the response to your recent video competition?
B.L.: AMAZING! It was the best response to any posting I have made to date.

C.C.: You just recently announced your top 20 videos.  What differentiated them from the rest?
B.L.: The Top 20 were selected on merit of content, which of their multiple uploaded videos were the advisors favorites and length.

C.C.: What other projects do you have in the works?
B.L.: I have been working on a business plan for Taste Network for over 5 years, long before Cochon555, Primal and ProteinU. I have invested thousands of hours and dollars into something I feel will be the best wine education tool to reach the internet and it’s getting close to launching. I can’t wait for that to be born. On the food side, I am going to take a vow of silence on the next foodie-severe project, but I would say – my favorite food is going to get a well-needed make-over.