Maine Food Rules Handcuff Amish Sausage Maker
Sausages and laws are the two things people never want to see being made, the saying goes.
Renowned chef Matthew Secich loves to make sausages. But for Secich, whose Unity, Maine-based shop has been endangered by state food regulations, the problem isn’t in the making of laws, it’s in how they’re being enforced.
Secich, a restaurant veteran, recently moved to Maine. Not too long after arriving, he converted to the Amish faith and opened a small shop, Charcuterie. As the name suggests, Charcuterie sells handmade meats, along with cheeses. As his faith suggests, Secich produces those meats and cheeses using no electricity or other modern tools or methods that are typically shunned by the Amish.
Photos show the store is lit by oil lamp, its slicer powered by hand.
In January, NPR captured the growing excitement around Charcuterie. As it and other new outlets have noted, Secich’s latest venture is in line with—but still quite a departure from—his previous culinary pursuits.
He’s a veteran of some of the best restaurants in the country. Secich worked as a sous chef in the kitchen at Charlie Trotter’s, the celebrated Chicago outpost founded and led by the late eponymous chef. He’s also worked in the kitchen at other top restaurants, including the Inn at Little Washington.
Secich left those bustling kitchens behind for a deliberately slower lifestyle.
“From once upon a time being a four-star chef, to playing with meat in the backwoods, that was all God’s plan,” Secich told the Bangor Daily News in January. “I feel so blessed to be here.”
But that was before Maine regulators descended on Charcuterie.
In March, they informed Secich that his operation wasn’t in compliance with the state’s food code.
The two key issues they cited were Secich’s use of a custom icehouse to chill his food and his lack of a written hazard analysis plan, commonly known as a HACCP plan.
Both issues are frustrating.
“You have to keep meats at a required 41-degree-Fahrenheit temperature, which is relatively easy to obtain using modern technology, but with an ice house, it could present some challenges,” says John Bott, a spokesman for the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry, in comments to Maine Public Radio.
No. Charcuterie’s icehouse either is chilling food properly or it’s not. And there’s been no suggestion by Bott or other state officials that it’s not. That makes sense, since—as I discuss at length in my forthcoming book, Biting the Hands that Feed Us—ice can cool food at least as well as does mechanical refrigeration.