NAVA meets Dan Shearman: Founder of Carcass Cartel

In an attempt to tackle the joint issues of food waste and the growing disconnect between people and the meat they consume, Dan Shearman assembled a crew of some of London’s most exciting chefs under the Carcass Cartel banner. The group consists of some pretty big names, including Elizabeth Haigh from the Micheline-starred Pidgin, Angel Zapata Martin from Barrafina, and Youtube star DJ BBQ. All united through their passion for ethical, nose-to-tail meat consumption and getting people excited for the wild and wonderful things you can do with the less popular cuts. Now they’re putting on a series of supper clubs with mouthwatering menus that champion whole animal eating. We caught up with Dan to discuss the feeling of raising a lamb from birth before eating it, as well as his top picks for the London food scene. 

How did you guys form? Do you feel like a cheffy version of The Avengers? 

Haha, no. Aside from Christian (DJ BBQ) you wouldn’t catch many of us in spandex, but then he rocks it well. Think of us more as a chef collective version of Sons of Anarchy but promoting the cause of ethical whole animal eating rather than illegal arms dealing.

I pulled together a group of brilliant chefs doing exciting things in London to promote a more ethical way of eating meat. It’s all about people doing great things for whole animal eating and the more chefs, the more noise. We have a few more joining the Cartel over the summer, including Lee Wescot of Pensons, Budgie Montoya of Sarap and Tom Griffiths of Flank.

Where did the nose-to-tail and birth-to-plate concepts come from? Have you always thought about food in this way or is it a recent development?

It’s never really been a concept; it’s always been there as the ethical way of eating meat – from the way an animal is raised to the respect of using it all. As a country boy I grew up with this instilled in me, but we have all seen a growing disconnect with the meat on our plates, where it comes from and what happens to those cuts you aren’t eating. This is partly through a lack of understanding of just how delicious, exciting and simple whole animal eating can be – it’s not about greying pieces of offal cooked without imagination anymore – get your heads out of the 1970s guys.

For your last supper club you raised a lamb called Kofte and served it in its entirety over the course of the meal. How was the experience of eating an animal you’d seen grow from birth? Do you think the general population could stomach that? And whose idea was it to call it Kofte? 

Sure it’s a little tougher to eat an animal that you have seen raised from birth, but to follow that journey via our Instagram gave diners a new respect that an animal has lived well, died for your meal and the importance of eating it all. We aren’t suggesting the nation start watching videos of fluffy lambs while they eat their Sunday roast, but it is important to take off those blinkers and begin to regain a greater respect for the animal and what’s happening to the rest of it.

I named him Kofte, partly as I felt a name would garner more respect than “Lamb No6”.

Of the different dishes Kofte featured in, which was your favourite or most interesting? 

The Lamb offal Lumpia (Filipino spring rolls) was a winner. They were filled with the liver, heart, lungs, and kidneys and won a fair few sceptics over!

As a travelling collective, you must work all across London. Do you have a favourite area to work, or any go-to spots that you have in your back pocket for late night food, last minute produce, or a wind-down drink?

All of us have our businesses in different parts of London so we all have our own favourite hangouts. For me, late night food is usually my boys at Other Side Fried, some of the best fried chicken in London. I’m usually pretty organised but last minute produce is usually begging suppliers for a short notice delivery, and a wind-down drink for me tends to one of three or four of the old school boozers in Soho – I’d take these over a cocktail bar any day.

Tell us about a typical night either pre- or post- work, or when you’re off. Where would you go? 

After work, it’s Soho, one of the best parts of London in my opinion for pubs and decent places to eat. Maybe a couple at The Blue Posts, then to Koya for some noodles to soak up the beer and onwards.

How about if you’re showing someone the city, where would you take them?

When friends and family come from out of town it’s usually a good street food market, often Maltby Street to get ourselves a table at Little Bird Gin Bar then graze on grilled cheese from The Cheese Truck, Steak Sandwiches from The Beefsteaks and a pork & scallop sub from Subcult.

Big question here. What’s your favourite restaurant in London? 

Can I have two? Fuck it, I’m going to have two… for afternoon vibes I’m a sucker for Ducksoup in Soho – a constantly changing menu, great wines and nothing ever disappoints. Then for the evening it would be Black Axe Mangal – coming from St John, Lee Tiernan is no stranger to whole animal cooking and everything they have ever put in front me has been bang on. If I died eating at his pass then I’d be a happy man.

Same question, favourite bar or pub?

The Culpeper, in summer, on the roof. Sorted.

Lastly, is there somewhere you haven’t tried yet but is next on your list? 

Quite a few on my list but the next top five to visit will be Peg, Scully, Bright, Darby’s – and I’ve still not managed to get to Cornerstone yet!