If you haven’t heard of Wagyu beef you are not alone. It is a cut of meat that comes from Japanese cattle that has specific genetic qualities which create a marbling of fat in the muscle for a melt in your mouth feel when you eat it. Local Chef and Imperial Beach resident Steve Brown recently opened Chop Shop by Cosecha on Palm Avenue offering Wagyu to the delight of many who admit they had never tasted beef that good. Brown explained that it was because of the pandemic that the butcher shop became a reality.
Brown has been cooking Wagyu and serving it at his pop up events since 2016 after winning the KAABOO Rock’n’ Chef competition and using Wagyu as a secret ingredient. His appreciation of Wagyu has led him to start CosechaSD dinners highlighting Wagyu for the multi course meals. He recently opened a restaurant called The Dining Room “TDR by Cosecha” in South Bay which serves 16 and 22 course progression of Wagyu. TDR seats 16 and offers one of a kind meal experience.
When the pandemic lockdown happened in March, Brown had to close the restaurant and found himself with a lot of Wagyu inventory. He quickly took action and changed his website to become an online Wagyu butcher shop.
“I sold three times my inventory in 24 hours. It was going so well with shipping all over and delivering all over San Diego and Los Angeles,” he explained. Based on his online success, Brown decided to open a storefront where customers can come by and see the cuts in person.
Brown said some people have wondered why he opened a butcher shop of this caliber in Imperial Beach. “I put it here in my town. It’s where I want it to be,” he said.
Brown also explained that shops in Little Italy and even La Jolla have high rents and his goal is to make Wagyu accessible to everyone. He works directly with importers and gets the best price possible and passes it on to his customers.
Brown explained that there are three gradings of Wagyu starting with American, Australian and Japanese at the top. In addition the butcher shop offers dry-aged American Wagyu that ranges in aging from 20 to 120 days. “The longer it ages, [it becomes] more tender and [has] more complexity of flavors,” said Brown.
In addition to Wagyu cuts that include Tomahawk, Miyazaki and Hokkaido, the shop also sells Kobe beef.
Brown plans for the near future to include offering Wagyu burger patties and nitro potatoes. Customers will also have a chance to pick a piece of meat and sides, have it cooked while they wait and eat it outside where he plans to have tables.
Brown is very excited about another venture he is involved in. He is currently raising 85 Tajima cattle which produce Wagyu beef in Montana at Arrington Ranch.
Brown is happy with how things have turned out. If you had asked him if he was going to open a butcher shop nine months ago he would have said no. “This is our COVID baby. I love it as much as being a chef,” he said of the shop.
Brown is proud of the fact that he was able to transfer his skills as a chef and focus his business in a new direction due to the pandemic hardship. “Restaurants may pause. This will stay. Everybody that pivots right away will be successful,” he said.
Brown first started holding pop up dinners at Gustatory in Coronado in 2016 and continued that model until he opened TDR. In addition he has had toured the U.S. hosting Wagyu tasting dinners and his plans included Canada this summer.
Brown explained that to be able to sell and serve Wagyu, you have to be certified by the Japanese government and that’s what he did. After winning the KAABOO competition he was noticed by the Japanese representatives there and was flown to Japan.
Brown’s love of food started after he lived in Germany where he had family, and worked at a hotel in housekeeping. He laughs when he talks about being demoted to dishwasher. But that eventually led to his experience working in the kitchen. When he came back to California he went to Le Cordon Blue Culinary School in Pasadena in 2003 for a two years program. Once he graduated Brown worked for many fine dining restaurants. He also opened a few restaurants in Los Angeles and San Francisco until he launched the catering brand and supper club CosechaSD, offering one of a kind dinners that are booked online, and diners are picked up from a sprinter van and taken to TDR.
There are only 23 Wagyu shop in the U.S. and Brown’s is the only storefront Wagyu butcher shop in California.
Swagyu Chop Shop by Cosecha, 1002 Palm Avenue. Tuesday through Saturday 12 to 6 p.m. Call (833) 277-4040 or log on www.swagyuchopshop.com