Chef Justin Brunson:
A Meat Guy with Love for Beemster
If you haven’t heard of chef, restaurateur, and charcuterie master Justin Brunson yet, you likely will very soon. He’s behind the wonderful restaurants Old Major, Masterpiece Delicatessen, Masterpiece Kitchen, and The Royal Rooster in Denver, Colorado, as well as the Denver Bacon Company. In 2016, he opened Culture Meat & Cheese, a cheese and charcuterie shop that fast became a local favorite. He’s also the star of the Food Network’s “SEARious Meats,” a show that celebrates all things carnivorous and delicious.
Brunson grew up on a farm in Iowa. He has worked in the restaurant business since he was 17 years old. “I went to regular college for awhile and it just wasn’t really my thing,” Brunson says. At the time, he worked for bars, grills, and caterers. Brunson loved being around food, and the heat of the kitchen energized and inspired him.
So the aspiring chef enrolled in Scottsdale’s LeCordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. In 2001, he began an internship with Chef Michael DeMaria at Michael’s at the Citadel. Three years later, Brunson headed to Denver and helped open Zengo with chef-owner Richard Sandoval. Since then, he’s built a small empire of cured meats and restaurants. “Colorado has been a special place to me,” says Brunson. “I love to fly fish and camp, and having Red Rocks in your backyard is pretty amazing. And it’s a forward thinking, cool place to open businesses.”
Brunson doesn’t mind working the long, grueling hours the industry demands because he deeply loves what he does. “I’m constantly thinking about food,” Brunson explains. “If I’m not cooking it, I’m teaching about it or reading about it. I’m motivated by creating new things. And there’s never a dull moment in the restaurant business.”
Meat + Beemster = A Match Made in Heaven
Although Brunson sees himself first as a “meat guy,” he has a special place in his heart for Beemster. He remembers trying a bite for the first time and thinking, “this is really amazing cheese.” Brunson says he “fell in love with it a little bit.” He appreciates the high quality of the cheese, and that the buttery, fresh flavor of the milk shines through. Beemster is a natural friend to cured meats, and Brunson especially loves crystallized Beemster X-O paired with salami.
His next big project is building Building Red Bear American charcuterie, which will cure meat in a 7000 square foot facility. Brunson is sourcing humanely raised local Colorado beef and lamb, and pork from his hometown in Iowa.
Even though Beemster is made thousands of miles away from Brunson’s operation in Denver, there are many parallels between what we do and what Brunson does. We both source the “best quality ingredients we possibly can,” and care deeply about “sustainability, animal welfare, and the community,” as Brunson says. We both use time-honored tradition to make things “the right way, not rushing it, making the best product we possibly can.”
Brunson uses Beemster in grilled cheese, creamed spinach, mac and cheese. “There are so many applications,” he says. He also adds Beemster Classic to simple Italian butter noodles for an infusion of rich flavor. Beemster X-O stars on his menus as part of his beloved three cheese grilled cheese. “It’s what adds all the great flavor,” he notes.
We look forward to enjoying many of Brunson’s cured meats and restaurant dishes, and being part of something we share: “the heritage of making something great and passing it along to new generations.”