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Hog wild for culinary careers

Students have a chance to ‘watch a master work his craft’

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Ethan Bubeck, plant manager at Lewright Meats Inc., in Eagle Grove, works on part of “Henry” Thursday morning as he demonstrated his butchering skills during the Culinary Career Discovery Day at Iowa Central Community College.

The area high school students visiting Iowa Central Community College Thursday for the annual Culinary Career Discovery Day had no idea what they were going to get to see as they were filing into the department’s auditorium.

Chef Michael Hirst, director of the Culinary Arts Program, gave them just a few clues.

“We’re about to watch a master work his craft,” Hirst said.

“We’ve seen the kitchen, we’ve seen the baking,” he continued. “We have a guest outside in the hall who’s about to be wheeled in.”

The “guest” turned out to be lot less lively than one might expect. In fact, he was quite … dead. He had also already been cut in half, lengthwise.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Kelly Fahnlander, at left, 18, a senior at Sioux Center High School, watches as a hog carcass is butchered Thursday afternoon during the Culinary Career Discovery Day at Iowa Central Community College. Her friend Karly Boettcher, 17, a senior, center, watches as well.

Ethan Bubeck, plant manager at Lewright Meats Inc., in Eagle Grove, introduced him further.

“This is half a hog,” he said. “What should we call it? How about Henry?”

Bubeck has plenty of experience. He made it seem easy as he wielded a laser-sharpened knife.

“I literally grew up doing this,” he said.

Had “Henry” been brought to the plant in Eagle Grove, he would have had a little different day.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Ethan Bubeck, plant manager at Lewright Meats Inc., in Eagle Grove, flips part of “Henry” over Thursday morning as he demonstrated his butchering skills Thursday during the Culinary Career Discovery Day at Iowa Central Community College.

“The animal walks into the back of the plant and gets carried out the front,” he said. “In packages.”

Bubeck was properly suited up to work safely: hard hat, cut-proof glove, and a cut-proof device called a belly pad.

“It’s so I don’t accidentally gut myself in front of you,” he said.

The first step in the process, before Henry Half Hog could become a ham, loins, butt and St. Louis style spare ribs, drew a few gasps from the audience.

“The first step is to cut off the head,” Bubeck said. “There’s still meat on it though.”

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Ethan Bubeck, plant manager at Lewright Meats Inc., in Eagle Grove, shows the students just how sharp the laser honed knife he’s about to use to butcher a hog carcass actually is by slicing a piece of paper in half during the Culinary Career Discovery Day at Iowa Central Community College.

Kelly Fahnlander, 18, a senior at Sioux Central High School, may, or may not, have been one of those letting out an noise or two when Henry Half Hog became Henry Headless Half Hog.

“It’s a little gross,” Fahnlander said. “It’s OK. I’m not going to stop eating meat because of it.”

Her friend, Karly Boettcher, 17, also a senior, watched attentively.

“It’s interesting how they cut the meat,” she said. “Gross? Not really.”

While the butchering demonstration took center stage, the visiting students also got hands on lessons in the baking lab, the kitchen and at Willow Ridge Restaurant.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Ethan Bubeck, plant manager at Lewright Meats Inc., in Eagle Grove, watches as Iowa Central Community College Culinary Arts Students Lisandro Verdugo, of Hampton, at left, and Carlin Nafe, of Fort Dodge, lift “Henry” onto a work table Thursday during the Culinary Career Discovery Day.

“We want the kids to understand it’s more than being a line cook,” Hirst said. “There’s a universe of different skill sets. It’s a journey of discovering what’s in the culinary world.”

Hirst was confident that few, if any, of the students had seen a carcass butchered into the cuts that end up neatly displayed in their grocery store.

“I’m sure they don’t,” he said. “We try to help them all understand where their food comes from, that educational opportunity is kind of a bonus.”

Bubeck made quick work of his craft. In short order, he had Henry Half Hog reduced to what are called primal cuts. Rough outlines in meat that still need some fine detail work done before they’re sold or prepared in the kitchen.

Hirst said almost 20 alumni of the program, instructors and students helped with the various demonstrations.

The other half of Henry Half Hog was used during another session later in the day.

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