Master Purveyors Inc.
Issue Spring 13
Master Purveyors operates within a domino effect. The boutique butcher and wholesale beef supplier serves regular clients such as Ben & Jack’s Steak House, Smith & Wollensky, The Westin Diplomat, ‘21’ Club, Benjamin Steak House and Bobby Van’s Steakhouse. In fact, it soon will begin shipping steaks to Wolfgang Puck’s new steakhouse in South Beach, Fla. It also supplies products to restaurants, hotels, entertainment venues and hospitals that come to Master Purveyors for the best cuts, chops and ground – the kind of stuff that could (and has) landed restaurants on best-of-best lists.
To wit, Zagat Survey has voted one of its clients, the famed Peter Luger Steakhouse, New York’s No. 1 steakhouse for 28 consecutive years. These restaurants demand quality because that’s what their customers expect. It’s imperative that Master Purveyors demand the same, kicking off the first domino that could ultimately lead to a client being voted No. 1 in its space.
“We are a boutique wholesaler and our customers are looking for the best products to keep the marketshare they have,” explains Mark Solasz, co-owner of the family run operation. “It’s very competitive out there because of the economy, but our customers can’t afford to lower their standards of quality because then you wind up pennywise and pound-foolish. That means we also have to have our standards. We buy the best cattle in the country that are fed the best feed and it’s actually done for the point of achieving the best-quality product my customers require.”
It isn’t enough, however, to buy the best. Master Purveyors has to keep it that way, and the family, including Mark Solasz, his brother Scott Solasz and their father and founder Sam Solasz each log 16-hour days to ensure that.
Aged to Perfection
Fresh-hanging Angus beef shipped from the Midwest makes its way to Master Purveyors’ USDA-inspected facility located in the Bronx, N.Y. It is kept fresh for the customer or dry aged for three to four weeks in an isolated temperature- and humidity-controlled room before it’s processed. It also offers boxed-beef that’s been cryo-vacuumed, allowing the beef to become tender, though beef in a sealed bag lacks the enhanced flavor profile. Dry aging, on the other hand, does both: tenderize and enrich flavor. The dry-aging process and Master Purveyors’ insistence to uphold the market for fresh hanging beef rather than switching to only pre-packed boxed beef are time-honored traditions that Mark Solasz attests enhance the quality.
“It helps tenderize the meat and enhances its flavor,” he says. “The fat permeates throughout the muscle, giving it a nuttier, beefier flavor. It’s something that we’ve been doing for decades. My father was doing this even before we came to the company.”
As the trend for natural and healthier foods continues to grow, Master Purveyors has developed new products to deliver on client expectations. The boutique butcher has been working with two of its suppliers, Slope Farms and Meyer’s Beef, to provide an all-grass-fed and all-natural beef product free of hormones and antibiotics.
“We’ve been getting requests for the last year or so and demand has been increasing,” Solasz says. “Because inquiries have been increasing, we felt there was a niche or a need to fill in the growing market of people looking for something more health conscious.”
In addition to a more health-conscious market, Solasz notes that the market has become more price conscious, even when it comes to high-end products such as Master Purveyors’. Its most famous clients might be in the steak business, but because of its long history in butchery, Master Purveyors is able to find value in every cut for every customer. In addition to its flagship filet mignon and sirloins served at steakhouses, Master Purveyors provides items such as brisket, bottom round, eye round, chuck rolls and porterhouse tails. It also knows that customers are always in the market for a good burger, so the company has developed designer burger recipes blending different muscles that perform differently depending on the cooking process.
“We are seeing a trend with some of our customers to buy less-expensive cuts to offset the more-expensive cuts,” Solasz explains. “What’s cheap today may be expensive tomorrow, so as prices rise, we offer our clientele alternative cuts to what they are using to help absorb the increases in pricing. We do R&D on different cuts and provide product training. We are very active in getting clients to look at different cuts to bring down the food cost but still offer their customers a quality piece of beef.”
Upgrade in Operations
Master Purveyors combines its recipes – both old and new – with only that technology which enhances its products’ quality. In early 2001, the company relocated from its Manhattan location to Hunts Point Meat Market in the Bronx. The company renovated the space – ripping up the asbestos-ridden floor and replacing it with ceramic tile, putting in energy-efficient windows, mounting a 44-camera security system and installing air ionizers in the office area and production room to kill airborne bacteria – to bring the facility to modern standards. It also invested $500,000 to complete the cold chain from shipment in to shipment out.
“We enclosed the loading docks, which were open before,” Solasz says. “We enclosed it and refrigerated it so that when product comes in, it’s refrigerated and processed refrigerated and it’s shipped out the same way. We completed the cold chain to enhance the integrity of the product.”
The mass renovation proves what Solasz affirms – Master Purveyors isn’t afraid of upfront investment as long as it leads to a premier standing in the industry. However, the family is still running a business with the aim of turning a profit, which is why it devised an energy-efficient solution for its trucks.
Seven years ago, Mark Solasz worked with an engineer to design a movable curtain for the refrigerated delivery truck interiors. Made out of heavy plastic strip, the curtains move back as product is removed from the truck, forming a wall inside the truck between the portion that has product and the portion that is empty. The portion that has product remains refrigerated while the empty portion is left at room temperature.
“We have this system on six trucks and out of the 18 trucks we have, we just eliminated three and will replace them with energy-efficient trucks that will arrive in a few weeks,” Solasz says. “As we eliminate the old trucks, we are upgrading the emission system and making them greener. It helps the economy and the environment and if I spend less money on gas, it saves me money. It’s not only socially responsible, it’s prudent business.”