Pat LaFrieda's first foray into the meat world began in the summer of 1981, when he was just 10 years old, when he started learning the tricks of the meat trade from sunrise to sundown under the watchful eye of his forefathers. That particular summer changed the course of his life. Twenty-eight years later, he owns and operates New York City's most prestigious and most valued meatpacking facility.
Selling to the finest restaurants around the country — including ones in Manhattan, Las Vegas, Miami and Chicago — Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors is synonymous with quality. As the The New York Post put it, "If carnivores really want to get respect, they need to name-drop cult butchers like Pat LaFrieda."
Famous for their “chopped,” not ground, meat, Pat has created more than 50 custom hamburger blends and is the mastermind behind such burgers as the famous Black Label Burger at Minetta Tavern (the reigning haute burger in NYC), as well as signature custom blends at hot spots such as Shake Shack, Spotted Pig, Union Square Café, Blue Smoke and Market Table.
On April 9, Food Network will debut Meat Men, the new reality show that follows Pat, his father, Pat LaFrieda Sr., and his cousin Mark Pastore through their daily work, meeting with the most famous chefs around in the most sought-after restaurants.
Ironically, Patrick LaFrieda Sr. never wanted his son to become a permanent fixture in the business. With the sole intention of teaching his son about a strong work ethic, Patrick Sr. introduced Patrick Jr. to working in a constant 360-degree environment, standing for hours on end, working under the dangers of band saws and knives — all with the hopes that his son would turn around and get an office job. Fortunately for the restaurants of New York, his plan backfired.
"There was something about what we did and how we did it that fascinated me. The thought that being successful meant that the family survived ... was poetic to me," Pat Jr. says. But he knew that in order to keep the poetry alive, things had to change. With only five employees and 40 customers, Pat hit the streets and started selling the brand that has won him accolades within the New York community, including New York Magazine, which dubbed Pat “the magician of meat.”
Today, LaFrieda Meats boasts an impressive 600 customers and is rapidly growing. The business operates seven days a week around the clock. That unmatched LaFrieda work ethic not only gained notoriety but earned respect. So much respect that in 2003 New York City renamed the street where the shop was located to Pat LaFrieda Lane after the first generation of LaFrieda meat men.
Pat Jr. has been featured in such esteemed outlets as The New York Times, New York Magazine, Men's Vogue, Saveur, The New York Post and Time Out New York. He has also appeared on the Food Network, Martha Stewart’s show, ABC News’ Nightline, Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and Mike Colameco’s Real Food on PBS.