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Behind the Scenes: Stella Dillard of Holeman & Finch Public House

Starting today, Alexa Lampasona joins the Food & More team as a features blogger. She is a writer whose previous work can be found on her website or her blog  (Life with Lampnsofa). She will report here on home cooking, national trends, Atlanta restaurants and interesting personalities behind the scenes.

– John Kessler

When one thinks of a butcher, its hard to imagine a female, but Stella Dillard shines in the role of butcher and A.M. sous chef at Holeman & Finch Public House. We put her on the chopping block to find out more about carving up whole pigs, curing sausages and the pastime that keeps her on top of her game.

This 278 pound pig is from Moore Farms in South Carolina.

This 278 pound pig is from Moore Farms in South Carolina. Photo credit: Stella Dillard.

How much meat are you handling on a weekly basis?

Every day I arrive at 7 A.M. and leave by 5:30 P.M. but Tuesday and Thursday are the heavy production days. Generally I’ll produce one dry sausage, two to three fresh sausages, three bellies for pancetta and about 36 pounds of beef bresaola.

You took a meat science program at Iowa State University. Explain the curing process.

I start by sealing the meat in a vacuum bag with a cure mix. Curing draws out moisture and the solution is changed every week for two weeks. Then I hang the meats in our case which we keep at 60% humidity, which keeps the cuts dry. A bigger whole muscle cure can take up to six weeks.

So how long does it take you to carve a whole pig?

I can usually break it down in less than two hours. It is fascinating having the whole animal in front of you, because you get to see the visual reminder that something lived and died to become a part of a menu.

You tell me a majority of the meat you eat is at work, but what is your favorite cut of meat to eat?

I like off-cuts like tongue, lamb belly and pork hearts, but I really look forward to making liverwurst.

I hear you are a runner. How did you get involved?

I didn’t start running until college when I was volunteering a few times a week at Cafe 458. I noticed my back was sore after an eight-hour shift, and knowing I would be in career where I would be on my feet, I realized I needed to take better care of myself.

How do you balance running with your schedule?

I try to run 15 miles a week. Its a great social outlet and it gets me out into the streets so I can see the city. Its challenging because I will get up at 5 A.M. some mornings, but running is what keeps me on top of my game.

Dillard shares the ingredients that are essential to making a cure mix. No quantities, sorry, that’s the butcher’s secret!

Spanish Sausage Cure Mix

  • Salt
  • Nitrate or nitrite (it is antimicrobial and keeps the meat color red or pink)
  • paprika
  • garlic
  • black pepper

- by Alexa Lampasona for the Food & More blog

5 comments Add your comment


November 25th, 2013
5:16 pm

Welcome Stella! You are joining a great team! Order some Kevlar protective gear now… Some of my fellow bloggers can be a tough crowd. All-in-all though, we have a merry band of “foodies”.


November 25th, 2013
9:45 pm

Stella, you are amazing!!! I’m so happy find you again in another publication!!!


November 25th, 2013
9:45 pm

“tongue, lamb belly and pork hearts” nice haha. Does familiarity with all of the types of cuts of pork lead to personal fringe-like preferences? I have had pork heart before, but now I want to try tongue meat.


November 26th, 2013
7:28 am

Beef tongue is great, may have to try pork tongue soon.


November 26th, 2013
8:30 am

Bonegarden Cantina has killer beef tongue tacos.