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Two cutups find an edge with tweets

January 20, 2011|Krista Simmons

To the connected diner, it may seem that Erika Nakamura and Amelia Posada arrived in Los Angeles ages ago. The larger-than-life personas behind Lindy & Grundy are practically household names among local foodies, though their butcher shop selling locally sourced, pasture-raised organic meat on Fairfax Avenue has yet to open. This tweeting team of cleaver-wielding "butcherettes," as they call themselves, has been tapping into the city's technologically engaged food culture, making the presence of their shop known well before it sells its first beef cheek.

Both barely clear the 5-foot mark, but they have quickly become social media giants. During their road trip from New York to California in August, the duo were already making a push to connect with their new demographic.

"I started following [on Twitter] every food industry person in Los Angeles and California that I felt was a part of something that I wanted to be a part of," Posada says. "I was trying to understand the food scene out here, figuring out what people are into and not into. Everyone who we've done business with, I know who they are before I [physically] meet them."

Through their interactivity, Posada and Nakamura also inadvertently tapped into an underground network of female butchers. Women in the industry from Kentucky to Toronto started reaching out, offering advice on such topics as finding beef purveyors and making it as a woman in the business.

The sense of support has been welcome in the male-dominated industry.

"I do think that no matter how good we are or how long we've been doing it, we are two 5-feet-tall women.... People will always look to the big dude in the back," says Nakamura of their experience apprenticing at Fleisher's Grass-Fed & Organic Meats, a Kingston, N.Y., butcher shop.

But being female can also work for the team, whose West Hollywood storefront is set to open in early February.

Shawna Dawson, organizer of the Artisanal LA festivals that celebrate sustainable handmade goods, was drawn to Lindy & Grundy's online presence and asked them to do meat fabrication demos at her October event.

"I don't think it's shocking that people would be intimidated by someone who's wielding a knife and splattered in blood," Dawson says. "But if they have an approachable female face ... it's more accessible. Many of the butchers around are not people the younger generation would look at as peers. I think they're filling a much-needed niche."

That sense of approachability is exactly what the women hope their business will deliver. Once they get into the groove, they aim to teach lessons on cooking the whole animal and on butchering, with small class sizes to ensure that everyone has a personalized experience.

"We're also going to do webisodes and do instructional tips on our website," Posada says. "We want to reach people who may not be used to eating [different cuts of] meat."

They also hope to tap into a group of vegetarians who might not have had access to sustainably produced meat and want to delve back into the omnivorous world. So in addition to their kimchi pork and lamb pastrami links, Lindy & Grundy will be grinding a "gateway sausage," a sweet Italian variety made from chicken and tofu.

Though this may stir some controversy in the vegetarian community, Posada and Nakamura believe they are championing a similar fight against commercial farming. Both abstained from eating meat for a good portion of their lives, in fact -- Posada for 14 years, and Nakamura for seven.

Posada grew up in Pasadena, and Nakamura is from Tokyo. The two met in Brooklyn at a drag show at which Posada was bartending. Even then, their social-media savvy played a part in their relationship. During their courtship, Nakamura would send long, well-written MySpace messages, which piqued Posada's interest.

Nakamura is a classically trained chef who trailed -- was a kitchen observer -- at high-end New York establishments, such as Dan Barber's renowned Blue Hill at Stone Barns. The heat of commercial kitchens wasn't for her, but what did click was being assigned to the butcher block.

The idea of opening a West Coast store came when the couple paid a visit to Posada's family in L.A. in 2009. When they were unable to find a shop in the area selling 100% locally produced, sustainable meat, a light bulb went off: The women would open a butcher shop.

Nakamura, 30, and Posada, 28, apprenticed with Joshua and Jessica Apple- stone at Fleisher's for eight months before moving west in August. Their mentors at Fleisher's share their philosophy of sustainability while maintaining an old-school butcher shop aesthetic. The young women hope to eventually host apprenticeships the way the Fleishers do, but that will come after the shop is established.

"We were trained by Josh and Jessica to make sustainable butchering a bigger thing," Nakamura says. "We can tackle the country from opposite ends. Teaching is the No. 1 way to get things across.... That's the best way to be an activist."

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