Last year Vinkeles’ main meat supplier Nice to Meat received a golden medal in the World Steak Challenge. Butcher Mikel Pouw owes that title to his longstanding commitment to bring Wagyu beef to Europe. We met the enthusiastic entrepreneur in the lobby of The Dylan. ‘The hotel and its amazing restaurant Vinkeles have a special place in my heart’, Pouw says. ‘Chef Dennis Kuipers was the first in the country to put Wagyu on the menu’.
Nice to Meat owner Mikel Pouw is not only one of the most distinguished butchers in the Netherlands. He’s also an inspiring lecturer: we’re treated to anything there is to know about the heritage of the stock, the ways to prepare steaks, shanks, ribs and flanks and of course the taste of his delicious meats. The butcher’s biggest fascination is with Wagyu-beef, we learn – high quality meat is becoming very popular these days. ‘A heavenly experience’, Pouw remembers his first encounter with Wagyu-beef at famous Tokyo hotel Okura. ‘I was immediately convinced of the great value for the Western market.’ Getting the meat to Europe though, proved to be quite a challenge. Pouw: ‘It took me almost 15 years of lobbying. Japan lacked export-regulation for meat. Apart from that I have really invested a lot in my relations with Japanese suppliers. I had to convince them of my knowledge of butchery and my love for their special product.’
The story behind
Though the company name suggests otherwise, Nice to Meat has a history of almost 122 years. Pouw acquired the family business in its 99th year of existence. ‘I’ve always wanted to distinguish myself by providing not only to the best hotels and restaurants in town, but serving budget-restaurants as well’, he says. Pouw offers meat in three different categories: from affordable quality to the very best. ‘Last couple of years meat consumption in the Netherlands, as in other countries, has gradually dropped’, the butcher acknowledges. Pouw doesn’t seem to worry about that though. ‘The Dutch tend to focus more on quality instead of quantity’, he says. With a shift to better food, the interest in his offerings grows. As does the interest in the story behind his special meats.
Nowadays it’s not hard to find Wagyu in the Netherlands, many restaurants put the special Japanese meat on the menu. ‘Don’t be fooled though’, Pouw warns, ‘not all meat that is sold as Wagyu is the real deal. Most so-called Wagyu beef comes from half-breed cows from the US or Australia.’ Apart from strict breeding rules Wagyu beef distinguishes itself by the treatment of the cattle, he says. ‘I know a lot of stories survive about the cows being massaged, unfortunately that is not true’, he laughs, ‘It is a fact though, Wagyu cows are treated individually with the highest care. They’re washed, combed and pedicured. All to reduce the level of stress.’ ‘Chef Kuipers plays a leading role in educating consumers.’
Chef Kuipers serves Japanese Wagyu with Chinese Oscietra caviar; a 100 gr entrecote with roasted pointed cabbage with gravy of Dashi vinegar and black garlic. The meat, made in the district of Gunma, is of an exceptional A5 quality, Pouw says: ‘As our first partner in the country to order Wagyu Vinkeles always has the first pick.’