The Artisan Butcher

A Lowcountry chef takes his charcuterie obsession to the next level

photo: Andrew Cebulka

Assorted charcuterie.

The way Craig Deihl tells it, he never meant to get into charcuterie. A decade ago, the chef at Cypress, in Charleston, South Carolina, decided to save the restaurant money by purchasing whole hogs and butchering them in the kitchen. Once he had parceled out the ribs, chops, and other entrée-worthy cuts, he found himself with a surplus of scraps and spare parts. So
he began tinkering with charcuterie, the ancient practice of preserving meats. Now, he’s taking his products and raw materials public with a new shop called Artisan Meat Share.

Deihl’s focus on charcuterie is just one manifestation of his farm-boy work ethic, which he cultivated growing up in Danville, Pennsylvania, the grandson of a farmer who expected him to help tend crops each year. “My mom was a great cook,” Deihl says. “She saw that cooking grasped my attention and she encouraged that.” He came to Charleston to attend culinary school, and a few years after graduation, in 2001, he helped open Cypress. Charleston then wasn’t the culinary destination that it is today, but Deihl embraced the challenges of the new restaurant with the same gusto that has kept him grinding away at its helm ever since, staying relevant even as the local and regional food scenes have changed dramatically.

Chef Craig Deihl.

photo: Andrew Cebulka

Maestro of Meat

Chef Craig Deihl.

“I have immense respect for Craig’s passion for not only charcuterie but also the complete picture of artisan methods,” says the Atlanta chef Linton Hopkins, who frequently looks to Deihl for meat sources and insight. “The man can grind, stuff, cook, and transform almost any ingredient into something remarkable.”

Five years ago, Deihl launched Artisan Meat Share’s subscription-based first incarnation. For an annual fee, subscribers could pick up quarterly packages of salami, ham, bacon, ground beef, and other meats from the Cypress kitchen. As word spread, not only did demand for the meat share rise, but soon customers also began to come to the restaurant specifically to sample the chef’s charcuterie. Three years in, Deihl began to consider opening a retail shop.

The new 1,300-square-foot, brick-and-mortar Artisan Meat Share is on Spring Street, a once-quiet thoroughfare it shares with a handful of young businesses. Notably, it’s a long way from Cypress, which is in a fancier, more tourist-trafficked spot where some locals fear to tread. All the better for the shop’s unpretentious mission: to bring scratch-made, quality foodstuffs directly to the people. With shelves of charcuterie as well as steaks and other choice cuts, it’s a totem to whole-animal butchery. But like the original meat share, the shop is also a direct line to the chef’s larder, with bacon jam, kimchi, and other condiments on offer; for the lunch and dinner crowds, there’s a menu of made-to-order hot and cold deli sandwiches. And that’s just the beginning of Deihl’s vision. “Growing up, we’d  go to the butcher shop and pick up our meats,” he says. “Now we’ve got a great local food stream here in Charleston. So I’ve been thinking, ‘How can I best take advantage of that?’ Well, this is it.”