Butcher, specialty foods purveyor, The Brooklyn Kitchen and the Meat Hook
For jump-starting the Brooklyn DIY movement. In kitchens across Brooklyn, people are making jam, brewing beer, fermenting Kombucha, and pickling kimchee, and a lot of the credit for this urban-homesteading bustle has to go to Tom Mylan. He was sourcing local cheese and sustainable meat for Williamsburg restaurants Diner and Marlow & Sons in 2005. Then Mylan opened Marlow & Daughters, a high-end but unpretentious butcher shop where food-obsessed New Yorkers could get damn good sausages and an impromptu lesson on obscure cuts of meat. Then Mylan noticed people were making things like sauerkraut and jams and wanted to create a way for them to network and share their stuff. In 2007 he started a party at a Brooklyn bar, now a yearly tradition, called the Unfancy Foods Show.
Most recently, Mylan partnered with friends to open the Brooklyn Kitchen Labs/Meat Hook: an eclectic combo kitchen supply store, classroom, and butcher shop he calls the "clubhouse" for the Brooklyn DIY scene. A sarcastic critic (he recently derided how trendy food had become: "any guy with a beard's now going, 'Food's Cool!'"), Mylan's an unlikely cheerleader. But he earnestly delights in finding and promoting the people making interesting stuff on the fringes of the traditional food world.
Who's your mentor?
Caroline Fidanza, who was the original chef at Diner and Marlow & Sons. I learned everything from her. Diner was one of the first restaurants in Brooklyn that really sought out farmers, and that was because Caroline would drive a refrigerated box truck up and buy produce from the Amish in Pennsylvania, and then sell what she didn't use out of the truck in an impromptu farmers' market across the street from the restaurant.
If you could change one thing about your industry, what would it be?
I would like local, sustainable, quality food to be more affordable. That's what we tried to do when we opened Meat Hook. I'd like to make it a lot less boutique-y. I think there's a level of annoying, pretentious bullshit that gets sprinkled all over everything that makes it almost, like, too fancy, so regular people are like, "I dunno, that's weird." I think people need to stop making weird organ-meat pâtés and start making hot dogs.