Meet Cleveland’s Lady Butchers: the women behind Saucisson


By Mary Kilpatrick,

Mar 13, 2019


CLEVELAND, Ohio — Chefs Melissa Khoury and Penny Barend pose in evening dresses, meat cleavers in hand, surrounded by cuts of meat.


They’re butchers in ball gowns. And they believe you don’t need to change who you are to do what you love.


The longtime friends transformed their passion for meat to open Saucisson, a meat shop and lunch spot in Slavic Village, which celebrates its storefront’s second anniversary this month. They sign their emails off as “The Lady Butchers,” and Khoury earned the nickname Queen of Pork after she smoked a 300-pound hog and served pork for every course of a 2011 dinner. Barend, meanwhile, is introduced as a “local meat maven.”


“You are who you are, right? You should never be ashamed to show that. Not that we’re wearing ballgowns on the regular while we’re butchering and, matter of fact, that’s probably the last dress that I’ve worn in a really long time,” Khoury said. “But, I have a feminine thing about my hair. My hair is really long, and it will always have to be long.”


Nearly 80 percent of butchers or other meat processing workers in 2016 were men, according to Census Bureau data compiled by Data USA. And restaurant kitchens have been notoriously sexist.


But these friends aren’t fazed.


“I think it’s a challenge to be a woman and be a chef. It’s a challenge to be a woman and a butcher, but it’s not something insurmountable,” Barend said. “If you strongly believe in your skillset and your ability and your personality and all that good stuff, then you just go do it.”


Barend and Khoury connected while working as line cooks at an Orlando, Florida, restaurant. They benefited from the support of chef and restauranteur Kathleen Blake, who they view as a mentor. Blake said she recognized their talent and passion immediately — but realized they needed someone to tell them so.


She asked Khoury began to butcher for the restaurant full time. Later, when Blake opened the Rusty Spoon in Orlando, Barend drove its charcuterie program as the chef de cuisine.


“They just needed someone to just keep prodding them and nagging them to have confidence in what they were doing and their capability,” Blake said. “I learned so much from them. It wasn’t just me being the mentor, I think I was more of the cheerleader, like you have to believe in yourself.”


Blake said female mentorship in cooking is important because women often are their own worst critics.


“I think we’re harder on ourselves. On the outside we show confidence, but on the inside we’re questioning, like how could we have done this better?” Blake said.


The start of Saussison ...


Expanding their brand ...  


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