“I’ve always done this for the pleasure of it,” says master butcher Dario Cecchini at his shop Antica Macelleria Cecchini in Panzano, Italy. “Because my dad, my grandfather, my great-grandfather were all behind this butcher stall. We need some money to live on, but when they ask me, ‘you work every day?,’ I say I’ve never worked a day.”
Cecchini’s passion for the art of butchery — as well as his enthusiasm for feeding patrons of his shop, teaching curious wannabe butchers, and serving food at his various restaurants around the Chianti region of Italy — are all part of what makes him one of the world’s most respected chefs.
This short documentary follows a day in Cecchini’s life, as he breaks down and prepares selections of local meat for his shop, greets and sells cuts to visitors (often sharing a taste and a glass of wine with them), teaches a “Butcher for a Day” class, and hosts a dinner at his restaurant Officina della Bistecca, right next door. “When you eat here… nothing is like ornately plated, everything is so simple: Large cuts of meat that just stand alone,” says LA chef Nancy Silverton, a guest at dinner on this particular night. “Dario is just full of life. I mean his personality is infectious, and his philosophy is probably the most important part of who he is.”
Some of the patrons at dinner talk about getting their passport stamped, but they’re not referring to any official travel document: Cecchini’s “passport” for fans of his shop creates his own “Republic” of friends, devoted diners, and general appreciators of his work. “It’s not possible for us to bring all of the people we care deeply about here to Panzano,” he says. “So I decided I needed to create a Republic of the heart,” he adds, welling up with tears. With their hands over their hearts, those in the shop that day line up to get their little red book stamped by Cecchini, thankful for a memento that symbolizes his affection for his work and those who enjoy it.
“Doing this job every day, like I have been doing for 45 years, is a little bit of goodwill, a little bit of luck, and also a little bit of inspiration,” says Cecchini. “It’s a feeling, it’s not an algorithm. It’s not a code, a rule. The rule is flesh, it’s blood… it’s the nobility of matter. Fantastic. This is meat.”