Butcher takes up the cleaver at Queens Park meat shop

Why is he in the news?

Most folks in New West have probably been to or at least passed by the former Queens Park Meat Market at 402 Second St.

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The shop has been around for nearly 100 years in one way or another. Its most recent owner, Peter Corbeil, called it quits in June after running it since 1998, when he took over from its previous owner, Eric Davies. (Corbeli died suddenly this past August.)

But the store didn’t sit empty for long.

Florin Mezo, a former chef and New West resident, was back in Canada after working as an executive chef in Europe, and he was looking for a new opportunity. That’s when he came across the Queens Park Meat Market. Mezo may know a thing or two about a good cut of meat, but he’d never been a professional butcher. That didn’t stop him. He went to work renovating the shop, and about two months ago he opened Queens Meat and Deli. 

The Record caught up with Mezo one morning in between preparing pre-orders and opening the shop to see how things were going.

Since you opened, how has business been?

So far it’s been great, I mean we do have great feedback. We had some people come over and say they were the best steaks they’d ever had, so I take that as a compliment, obviously.

Do you get the beef from a local supplier?

All my meat, they’re local, probably not like 20 miles. I’m getting my pork from Langley and the chicken from Coquitlam, but the beef is Alberta beef, and I work with local suppliers, but they get it from Alberta.

What are some of the things people ask for when they come in?

Probably coupes de boeuf (cuts of beef) will be one of the things that we sell a lot. Standing rib roasts, Black Angus New York steaks, Denver steaks.

Do you think there’s a growing popularity in buying meat from traditional butcher shops?

Well, let me tell you what the difference is. I’m aging all my carcasses that I get. They usually hang for two weeks or three weeks and what that does is it actually reduces in weight and what it’s reducing is water weight. So when you … go to the grocery store to get some minced beef or whatever, you put in the pan and then you can see the water coming out. Well, this one you can put in the pan and (there’s) no water coming out because the water is already reduced. … So people, yes, they do buy locally, obviously there’s some people who go to grocery stores, they get it from there, but there are a lot of people that they’re looking for local. And also, they’re looking for different kinds of cuts of meat. We do get a lot of new orders that the supermarkets wouldn’t do.

What’s a typical day like for you?

Usually I get an hour before to do all my ordering, and then I start prepping the display case and then once I open, if I have a bit of free time, usually in the morning you do have a bit of free time – from 20 minutes to 30 minutes – to start doing the orders. I do have a lot of pre-orders. … At the end of the night, it’s cleaning and doing all the orders again, seeing what’s ready for tomorrow. That’s about it.

Tell me about the pre-orders. Is that just people calling ahead?

They’re calling ahead, but there’s not too many now. There’s probably eight to 10 people that email me or that text me, but I know them. They come in the shop and make big orders and stuff and I got to know them.

What would you say is your most popular item or meat?

We’re selling a lot of Black Angus rib-eyes. That sells a lot. I’m selling probably, and I’m not exaggerating, probably 60 to 70 pounds of Black Angus rib-eye a week.

Wow, that’s a lot.

Yeah. I mean, people are looking for steak. While I was doing construction (on the shop), I was asking people, ‘What are you looking for?’ Ninety per cent were looking for steaks – steaks or beef, whatever cuts.

What are your hopes for the shop, moving forward?

Well, I didn’t have high expectations, to be honest with you. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, but I knew it was going to work. I can always switch the business towards providing stuff for restaurants, especially because I’m coming from a restaurant business, and there are quite a lot of restaurants that are looking for this. … I never wanted to get rich, so if you’re asking for that point of view, I’m not looking for that. I just enjoy coming to work every day.

Do you ever miss being a chef?

Well, yeah sometimes, yeah, but being a chef I always wanted to do more. So, here more is not (more), it’s labour – I don’t like to do labour. I was always running away from labour. Like if I can go to a restaurant and make the menu, and then change the menu every two months and do something new, but just to repeat things over and over again; like I can repeat something if I’m very proud of it, but if I’m not proud of it, I don’t want to sell something that I’m not standing behind. Does that make any sense? … So that was one of those things that was setting me back, so yeah, I kind of miss it sometimes but just to go and get a job here and work, I wouldn’t do it.

Anything else you wanted to say?

No, no that’s all. I just want to open the shop now.

Queens Meat and Deli is open Wednesday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more info, visit www.queensmeatanddeli.ca.

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