Chef Dan Varga is The Hungarian Butcher. Fueled by a passion to combine his culinary skills as a chef for 25 years and his Hungarian roots, Vargas opened his butcher shop in Columbus, Ohio with a mission to provide locally sourced meats, as well as traditional and Hungarian sausage recipes.
Noting Hungarian butchery as a somewhat dying art form, Vargas and his team are all too happy to introduce new customers to something new, while also providing those of Eastern European descent with something more familiar. The best part of his job? He says it’s helping customers remember loved ones through food.
“We hear stories all day long about how ‘My grandma used to make this, I haven’t had this since I was a kid! My grandpa was a butcher and would make sausage!’” he said. “Food makes people happy.”
Chef Varga has his grandmother, Eva, a first-generation Hungarian immigrant, to thank for his skills. It’s her recipes that Varga was first taught and has since modernized to fit today’s tastes.
The menu at The Hungarian Butcher includes smoked and cured meats, sausages, salamis, bacon, headcheese and more. Everything is made in house, something Varga attributes to setting his shop apart from other butchers. For him, it’s all about quality.
It helps, too, that he has multiple chefs on staff which allows him to create new items. He’s also licensed to dry cure his own salami, culatello, pancetta and coppa. And he makes his own smoked sausages, fresh sausages, terrines and pates, all of which come from local Ohio farms.
“We work directly with our farmers so they are growing the product specific to our standards,” he said. “Also, I worked on a farm, so I set my standards high and know the most ethical and best practices for raising the animals.”
For the chef, it’s more than just about selling meat: It’s about carrying on a legacy and tradition for his family and others in the area. It’s also about personal relationships.
“Many butcher shops have closed in recent years because the next generation didn’t want to take over after the owners had passed away or retired,” he said. “However, people still want quality meat so they’re willing to spend money to eat locally sourced.”
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