Chef Mike Phillips has built a strong local reputation in recent years for his work at the Craftsman, particularly for putting together what many consider the best charcuterie plate in the Upper Midwest, and among the best in the country.
Now, he’s leaving the Craftsman and going into business with Kieran Folliard, whose Cara Pubs (The Local, Kieran’s, Cooper, and The Liffey) are local powerhouses. The two will be partners in a new venture called Green Ox Foods, “an innovative food production subsidiary to provide artisan meat products and charcuterie,” according to a PDF press release issued today. “Our long-term objective is to develop Green Ox into a brand that gives our region an artisan food product with far ranging retail distribution.”
We chatted by phone with Phillips about his new venture.
What are the initial hurdles you need to clear before you launch?
There are so many hoops to jump through — we’re still looking for a large space to make fresh sausage, and we’ve got to deal with putting together a HACCP plan, and other details.
When can we start tasting this new product?
Hopefully by this coming St. Patrick’s Day [Mar. 17] — that would be a best-case scenario. But we’d like to start doing a charcuterie plate at The Local in the next couple of months.
What’s the story with the new facility you’re working on?
It’s a cool project — it’ll be synergistic with a commissary kitchen for Cara Pubs. When I’ve thought about this idea over the years, one of the main challenges was having some kind of anchor product to support the project while meat aged out — salami, you know, takes three months, copa three months, hams can take three years. So sausage for the pubs, that’s the anchor. We’ll be producing bacon and ham, too, using whole animals.
How’d you come up with the name?
That’s all Kieran — the idea was to tie the product to the region. So the ox is a reference to Paul Bunyan, and green is about sustainability and environmental awareness — and also a nod to Irish heritage.
What’s this mean for the Midwest?
All over the world, you see regional pride in product — it really irked me when Bertolli came here and took our pigs for their products… I thought: “Wait a minute, those are our pigs!” So we’re taking them back.