Michael Puglisi Makes the Cut

Electric City Butcher in Santa Ana’s 4th Street Market is poised to be a pillar of the O.C. food community

Santa Ana’s 4th Street Market has something that our other Orange County food halls don’t: an artisan whole-beast butcher. Chef Michael Puglisi’s inspiration for Electric City Butcher is generally European and specifically Sicilian—he sees a shop like his as an essential part of the community surrounding it. Puglisi, whose work experience includes a stint as sous chef at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Beverly Hills, cuts everything to order, and also offers handmade sausage and charcuterie. (In the photo, Puglisi’s on the right and assistant Richard Lu’s on the left.)

Why the name Electric City Butcher?

The Electric City is a nickname for my hometown of Schenectady, New York—where General Electric was founded.

Where did you train?

All of my training has been hands-on. My first culinary job was in a supermarket. My kitchen and butchery skills came from working different kitchens in New York, Boston, Miami, Sicily, and Los Angeles, all with amazing top-tier chefs and butchers. I also studied, read a lot of butchery books, and made a lot of mistakes—to learn what not to do.

What’s the most satisfying aspect of owning your own shop?

Several great things. The sense of accomplishment—that all the years taking a culinary beating were worth it, the fact that I’m the proud owner of such an integral part of what all great communities need, and, of course, being my own boss.

Bestselling meat cut?

Though it’s not a cut, our sausages! We have to make fresh, handmade sausage every other day, just to keep up. Other than that, Cook’s Pigs coppa neck steak.

Any surprises in what your customers like?

Yes, we try to focus on French charcuterie and whole animal usage, which means things like spleen and stomach in addition to the meat of an animal. The items we create using the offal and other varietal cuts tend to sell quickly. Which to me means folks are hungry for it!

What’s your favorite meat item to fabricate or cook?

To fabricate, it would be our testa de maiale, or pig head. It takes a lot of care and precision to make it right, and when done well, the payoff is huge! To cook, I love a perfect braised piece of meat. Anyone can cook steak just right and be done in less than 15 minutes, but taking the time to care for a great piece of meat for braising is fantastic.

What’s next for you and ECB?

Of course, we all want success—cookbooks, TV, magazines, James Beard awards, a second shop that’s bigger, a restaurant, more Twitter followers… but what we want next is to respect the concept for what it is, and to be able to have longevity—provide our community with consistent, high-quality, cared-for products for years to come.

Photo by Anne Watson Photography

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