Chief Executive Officer, Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors

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.

Next Up

Star Kitchen: Pat LaFrieda

Pat LaFrieda, meat purveyor to the stars, shows Food Network Magazine around his Bronx kitchen.

Aaron McCargo Jr.

Aaron McCargo Jr. competed on and won Season 4 of Food Network Star in 2008, beating out thousands of culinary hopefuls for the ultimate dream job — his own Food Network show. Big Daddy’s House premiered August 3, 2008, and ranked as the number one “In the Kitchen” weekend show during its initial six-episode run. With the show’s continued success, Aaron consistently films new episodes of Big Daddy’s House with Follow Productions outside Philadelphia. On Big Daddy’s House, Aaron shares his passion for big, bold flavors and fun, family cooking, from comfort foods to barbeque favorites to breakfast delights, Aaron whips up mouth-watering recipes inspired by many years of culinary experience and his fun-loving family while bringing a down-to-earth vibe and warm smile to the kitchen. Whether cooking with his children, relatives, friends, or even by himself, big food and big fun reign supreme. A family man who adores all things flavorful, Aaron’s passion for cooking was sparked at the age of four when he started baking cakes in his sister’s Easy Bake Oven. At the age of 13, Aaron was as a Junior Volunteer in the kitchen at Cooper Hospital University. From there Aaron’s entrepreneurial spirit set in as he began making and selling cakes and cookies to his childhood friends. He has since worked in nine New Jersey restaurants including casual and fine dining. In 2003, Aaron opened his own restaurant in Camden, N.J., called McCargo’s Restaurant. Most recently, Aaron served as the Executive Chef of Catering at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. He attended Atlantic Cape Community College’s Academy of Culinary Arts. Born and raised in Camden, N.J., Aaron regularly speaks to youth at community schools and events illustrating that they too can succeed despite the odds. Honoring him for his success and service, Camden Mayor Gwendolyn Faison presented Aaron with the keys to the city in 2008 and designated September 25 as Aaron McCargo, Jr. Day. Aaron continues to donate his time to non-profit organizations such as Share Our Strength; he served as the 2009 spokesperson for its Great American Dine Out campaign to help engage the restaurant industry to help end childhood hunger in America. Aaron comes from a large family (he has three brothers and two sisters) whose constant support has helped him achieve his goals. In his spare time, Aaron enjoys Bible study, tennis, Buffalo wings, watching sports and traveling. Married with three children, Aaron lives with his family in New Jersey.

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