Bloody Darlings

By on December 20, 2016

Sweet Cheeks Meats’ butchered nose-to-tail offerings are nostalgic of a simpler time.

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JACKSON HOLE, WY – When you walk into the Sweet Cheeks Meats butcher shop, just opened in Midtown, you’ll notice the gleaming white tile, the wall-to-wall butcher case, and that the whole animal processing happens right behind the counter.

“I wanted transparency,” said Nick Phillips, who opened the shop with his wife Nora. “I couldn’t think of a better way than to put it all right in the middle of the shop.”

Between laughs, Nick recalled the launch of the Sweet Cheeks Meats farm stand back in 2015. The stainless steel cooktop he had built the day before had buckled with the heat. The clamps he had jerry-rigged to secure it to the grill had blown out. “We were dying so miserably out there for four hours,” he said.

It didn’t take long for Nick and Nora to develop a cult-like following of loyal farmers market customers who didn’t mind standing in line on Saturday mornings for a Sunnyside Swine breakfast sandwich. The duo hired some help, got fast on the line, and by the end of last summer they were serving up to 900 customers a week between the farmers market and the Jackson Hole Live outdoor summer concert series.

You could say Sweet Cheeks Meats was born when the Phillips’ brought home a pig from Cosmic Apple Gardens and spent the next four days teaching themselves from a book how to butcher it. Soon Nick, a civil engineer, was building a butcher table and sourcing whole animals. He took courses in charcuterie and butchery. He offered his services to friends who hunt.

In March 2015 Nick left his day job to start an apprenticeship in Reno, Nevada, for three months, 60 hours a week.

“Each week we did six hogs, a cow and two lambs. I was given full rein to develop my own recipes.”

As his recipes made it to the permanent menu, Nick gained confidence.

“By no means am I a chef, but I’m a good cook. We cook good food.”

Starting out at the farmers market gave Nick and Nora a platform to test out the waters. “We wanted to put our brand out there, start tossing menu items around, and see how people reacted,” Nick said. “Some things, like the Sunnyside Swine, have never left the first menu. Others have been a total flop. I think there’s nothing better than bacon on a stick, but people didn’t know how to eat it.”

Making local meats more accessible than ever before is part of the Sweet Cheeks Meats business plan. “We’re not doing anything new here with the butcher shop,” Nick said. “We’re stepping back in time. All these animals are raised in a sustainable fashion in a humane manner. That’s what we believe in and we support. We’re really fortunate in this town … people are interested in knowing what they put in their bodies, and they care about nature, animals and humanity.”

Nora, who is up with the snowplows to bake biscuits, make chorizo gravy, and prep for the 7 a.m. breakfast crowd, noted: “It’s such a thrill to give people a good product at a good price. We think it can be both really good and really fair. And I think people like that we are just doing what we love to do.” PJH

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About Annie Fenn, MD

After delivering babies and practicing gynecology for 20 years in Jackson, Annie traded her life as a doctor to pursue her other passion: writing about food, health, sustainability and the local food scene. Follow her snippets of mountain life, with recipes, at www.jacksonholefoodie.com and on Instagram @jacksonholefoodie.

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