In the world of culinary arts, there are few figures as esteemed as Dario Cecchini, the renowned eighth-generation butcher from Tuscany. Growing up mere steps from his family’s butcher shop, Cecchini has dedicated almost half a century to honing his skills and upholding a tradition that spans centuries. He now brings his unparalleled expertise and commitment to sustainable, whole-animal butchery to a new audience as the driving force behind Carna at SLS Dubai.

In a conversation with City Times, Cecchini offers insights into his upbringing, distinctive techniques, and his vision of the perfect steak.

Tell us about your upbringing in Tuscany and how it influenced your career as a butcher?

I was born just 10 meters from the door of our family butcher shop. My parents worked in the shop, while my grandmother cared for my sister and me. My mother recounted that the first person I laid eyes on when I entered the world was my father, clad in his butcher's jacket.

What does it mean to you to be an eighth-generation butcher, and how has your family's legacy shaped your approach to your craft?

Being an eighth-generation butcher means more than heritage – it signifies nearly 50 years in the trade next year. This legacy instills in me a profound sense of duty. Upholding my family's values, including ensuring the well-being of animals, providing ample space for them, and utilizing every part of the animal, remains my top priority at Carna in Dubai.

What have been some of the most pivotal moments in your career that have defined your journey as a master butcher?

Having to start working without a solid foundation after losing my parents at a young age was a turning point. I had to forgo my studies in veterinary science and blend my limited butchery and veterinary knowledge to pave my own path.

Can you share some of your unique butchery techniques that set your work apart?

I'm not certain if my working methods are vastly different from others, but I strive to uncover the best recipe from every muscle, tendon, cut, and part of the animal. My aim is to achieve harmony, which I believe distinguishes my approach.

What are the essential elements in crafting the perfect steak, from selection to preparation?

A well-raised animal, properly aged meat, humane harvest, and the expertise of a skilled chef are vital. It's crucial to have a proficient butcher who ensures a quality cut of well-raised beef.

What tips can you share with home cooks for preparing and cooking the perfect steak?

I prefer grilling steaks without pre-salting or marinating. It's important to allow the meat to reach room temperature before grilling. Also, a glass of Chianti Classico serves as the ideal companion for the grill master. Grilling for 6 to 8 minutes per side while low down over a hot grill, followed by a 5-minute rest, yields the best results. Adding salt and a drizzle of olive oil after slicing and serving enhances the flavor. My preferred salt is Profumo del Chianti, infused with Tuscan herbs.

What are some common mistakes people make when cooking steak, and how can they avoid them?

Common pitfalls include not allowing the meat to reach room temperature, pre-salting, marinating, and using unsuitable fuels. Opting for hardwood charcoal is advisable.

What qualities do you believe make a steakhouse truly exceptional, drawing from your experiences worldwide?

Based on my global experiences, I'm inclined towards transitioning from a traditional steakhouse to the concept of a whole cow house, as we are doing. Relying solely on deboned steak fillets is not sustainable, and I advocate responsible carnivore practices.

What advice would you give to those aspiring to become a butcher or enter the culinary field?

Follow your passion and listen to your heart. Essential things are often invisible to the eyes, as the fox advised the Little Prince.

How did the collaboration with Carna at SLS Dubai come about?

The collaboration stemmed from SLS Dubai approaching me, which I promptly accepted. The striking beauty of SLS Dubai and Carna's status as a crown jewel influenced my decision.