A cut above the usual

He’s the top chef who’s gone back to the source, leaving behind the pans
and sealing a new place between kitchen and farm.

From fast-paced international restaurants, to the historic country town of Branxton, Michael Robinson has nearly gone full circle from his time as an award-winning chef to owner of Hungerford Meat Co – the little butcher shop with big ideals.

Michael has worked at some of the best kitchens in the world, including La Trompette in London and Ortolan in Los Angeles. In Australia he is known for his time at the Bather’s Pavilion, Becasse in Sydney and most recently, as head chef at beloved Hunter restaurant Margan.

With 15 years’ experience under his belt, the gruelling hours, a young family and a growing passion for meat and charcuterie was enough to encourage him to try a new path.

“I guess I’ve always had in the back of my mind of whether I was going to stay in the kitchens forever. I was into charcuterie, there was always that meat connection,” he said.

“Just by chance, the butchery popped up. It came out of nowhere and fell in my lap. It was pure luck – and came to the right person at the right time.”

Serendipity handed Michael a new calling and with his wife Alana – who also has years of experience in the hospitality industry – he took over in 2016.

The butcher at Branxton has been in operation since 1937, when Claude Hungerford created Hungerford’s Butchery and Smokehouse. His family ran it for over 60 years before selling it to another family in the late nineties, who took ownership until Michael’s purchase. Now it’s Michael’s turn and one of his first moves was to rename the shop as a nod to its origins.

“We always had the idea of going back to the old-school style of butchery. With the heritage-listed building we wanted to play on that beautiful name as it’s so rich in history in this area.”

The driving philosophical force behind Hungerford Meat Co is to work directly with small-scale farmers, supply meat that is sustainably and ethically produced, focus on heritage breeds where possible and take care to use the whole animal. The result is a premium product with minimal waste – more than 95% of a carcass is used each time.

Michael has teamed up with local producers including Albion Farm, Little Hill Farm, Hunter River Angus and Lamb, Kaluda Beef, Gundooee Organic Wagyu, the Gourmet Goat Lady as well as Extraordinary Pork.

“I really wanted to step away from wholesalers and work directly with the farmers. To fit in with our philosophy is easy. We know the farmers we want to work with, but we are always looking for more amazing suppliers.”

Read more in the Spring issue of Hunter&Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.