Persimmon Provisions is the butchery and specialty food shop brainchild of Chef Champe Speidel, who is both the chef and owner of Persimmon restaurant in Barrington. Although he earned his formal education at Johnson & Wales, he really learned to cook through his working career. His greatest teachers? Learning new things from his staff, and from the mistakes he makes along the way.
What is the core concept behind Persimmon Provisions?
We wanted to use the bounty of local animals for the restaurant but we did not have a large enough space to A) break these animals down into usable parts and, B) have the ability to sell through the entire animal without freezing parts, which I did not want to do. I was a butcher before I was a cook, but our kitchen at Persimmon was not conducive to large butchering projects. I thought we could open a small shop, take care of all the butchering projects for the restaurant, sell the other parts retail and offer some other hard-to-find items from our larder to the public.
Have you always been interested in butchery?
I learned to butcher when I was in high school. I love to work with my hands and I found an artistry in butchery that really appealed to me. Butchery led me to cooking and now we’ve come full-circle.
What items from Persimmon Provisions do you use on your menu?
We use any and all cuts at the restaurant. We will often use several different cuts on one dish (e.g. a loin chop from a lamb rack, a mound of braised lamb shoulder and a cube of lamb breast). It offers variety in a dish and eliminates the redundancy of a 12-ounce steak. I will also take the very best of a carcass for the restaurant or a special piece from a special animal that came in. We also dry age beef at the shop so we can offer a steak on the menu that has 35-48 days of hang time.
I hear you make your own sausages. What are the key ingredients and where do you source from?
Our fresh sausages include lamb, duck, chicken, pork, wild boar and often venison. They are basic sausages that focus on the flavor of the meat. Our sources are far and wide. Our whole-carcass beef, lamb, pork and chickens come from within a 150-mile radius. Our venison comes from Texas.
If I were entertaining friends, which cheeses would you recommend for a cheese plate?
I would have at least four varieties with as many as six. Any more and you may waste good cheese. I would have a hard cheese, a soft-ripened cheese, a blue cheese and something in the middle between hard and soft. Along side them I would have a good fig or apricot jam, some great bread or thin crackers and some honey.
Was Persimmon Provisions met with the same immediate national attention as the restaurant?
No it wasn’t, but that was never our goal. We honestly opened it to feed the restaurant, but I am very proud of the products we sell and the service we provide.
How do you come up with new dishes?
Our industry requires a lot of logged hours, so I find my inspiration while I work. Butchering is very meditative. It is not stressful like cooking on a line. It was while breaking down a beef forequarter that I had the entire vision of the butcher shop. Many new dishes are conceived while butchering. The shop is cool and quiet; it is my atelier.
What is your favorite dish to make?
My favorite item we prepare at the restaurant that we sell at the shop is our Bolognese sauce. I could eat it every night.
From where do you draw your inspiration?
Mainly from the products our purveyors provide. I have butchered beef ribs that I want to eat raw because they are so beautiful. I get vegetables that are works of art. Those things are inspiring and at the same time stressful because on a plate you want to do them justice. You don’t want to destroy any natural beauty; you hope as a cook to preserve it and make it better. That stress is my motivation and inspiration.