Girl with a Cleaver Earring

Tanya Cauthen’s Belmont Butchery is a foodie favorite in Richmond.

Photo by Sara Wood

Tanya Cauthen

     Anyone who wears an earring in the shape of a meat cleaver and owns a butcher shop is not to be trifled with.  

     Between shots on her iPhone of her husband, nieces and her late 17-year-old cat are images of a raw bone-in-steak, a whole pig’s head perched face forward on a cutting table, and the carcass—split in half lengthwise—of a massive Hungarian Mangalista lard hog (which she would later break down). “Do you see that?” she says excitedly, pointing at the 5-inch thick layer of fat encasing the corpulent pig. “It’s incredible!”

     It is this enthusiasm for good product that softens the copper-haired, take-no-guff Cauthen, a Swiss-trained chef with serious culinary chops (pun intended) who has been featured in Saveur and Bon Appétit magazines. The 43-year-old has opened and run some of Richmond’s top restaurants and co-owned a catering company in addition to running a cooking school and working as a freelance food and wine writer.

     Cauthen opened her shop in 2006, and today it remains the only independent butcher shop in Richmond. Though she is one of only four or five female butchers in the country, Cauthen’s is not a mission to break any glass ceiling; “My goal is just to feed people well,” she explains.

     Cauthen grew up with serious foodie parents. “I didn’t have peanut butter and jelly until I was in college,” she laughs. “I was more likely to have a lamb and watercress sandwich for lunch.” She says she and her sister would spend Saturdays with their father planning and cooking the evening meal from menus in Julia Child & Company. Says Cauthen, “We always did the menus exactly as they were written.”  

     And Cauthen is still paying attention to that kind of detail. She sells cut-to-order meats and handcrafted sausages, pâtés and charcuterie, as well as cheese, wine, beer and other prepared foods.

     Despite her training, experience and the success of her shop, Cauthen won’t call herself a master butcher. “Because this is a craft, and an artisan craft, there are always new skills and techniques to learn. … I’ll never know everything.”

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