When Livegrass Butcher and Bistro (3601 E 2nd, Edmond) opened in June, chef-partner Josh Valentine was almost a decade removed from Divine Swine, his culinary ode to the pig on N. May that he closed to participate in season 10 of “Top Chef.” His talent was already obvious before Divine Swine, but a decade of seasoning in other people’s restaurants – including the rightly famous FT33 in Dallas – has prepared Valentine to be a chef-operator with more perspective.
“We’re trying to have fun,” he says, speaking of his menu. “We’re going with burgers and sandwiches for now. We’ll get around to the full bistro experience with entrees and other options once the COVID crisis passes, but for now, I’m focused on the fun stuff.”
The fun stuff includes burgers and sandwiches made with beef, pork and chicken raised by Valentine’s partners, Mark and Susan Goss. They have a ranch in Okfuskee County, east of the metro, where they raise certified Angus beef, Berkshire pigs and Cornish Cross chickens. The ranch, which they purchased nearly five years ago, is now 538 contiguous acres that Mark (a retired petroleum geologist), Susan and a crew of 10 to 12 cyclical ranch hands operate.
“We were introduced to Josh through a mutual friend,” Mark Goss says. “We’d made a decision to do a restaurant or butcher shop already, because we needed a way to get product out at the right scale and at a price consumers could afford.”
Frequent travelers, the Gosses had the idea to recreate some of the quality and feel of the Willamette Valley or Napa Valley in Oklahoma. To facilitate that, they worked with Malia Tate Design to make the space inside Livegrass warm, rustic, comfortable, functional and beautiful. The vibe is very much “California winery tasting room” meets “urban bistro,” and the live-edge common table, handcrafted wood furniture and original design pieces speak to a commitment to quality and beauty.
The heart of Livegrass, though, is Valentine’s quest to present the best meat possible –from farm to butchery to display case, and yes, table – in a way that showcases the meat. In sampling his sausages, beef franks and charcuterie, what you taste is beef and pork, not salt and fillers.
“What’s the point of going to all the trouble to raise animals properly and then bury the flavor?” Valentine says. “When you taste our food, we want you to taste the care and the flavor of the meat.”
The burgers are going to be a sure hit, especially The Southern: Angus beef (80/20 blend), and bacon, pimiento cheese and chowchow all prepared in-house. Yes, chowchow. Those jars of veggies your grandma or great grandma used to store in Mason jars in the storm cellar are actually meant to be consumed. Valentine’s is delicious – so much so that we inquired about possible retail sales of jars.
“We’ll have several of our items for sale at retail,” Mark Goss says. “No reason people shouldn’t take the things they love home with them.”
Valentine has always been a DIY chef – at Divine Swine, even the ketchup was made by hand – and that side of him has only become more pronounced. All the butchery will be done in house, and he’ll have a case full of charcuterie that rotates regularly. The pickles are made in house, as are the rubs and sauces.
The Okie Pig is a hot sandwich with sliced pork, smoked ham, bacon jam (house made, naturally), barbecue sauce and chowchow. Honestly, there is no good reason not to put his chowchow on every sandwich, burger, salad and dessert, but that’s not how the menu is designed.
“It’s all the fun stuff I love to cook,” Valentine says with a smile and breezy confidence, emphasizing fun yet again. He means it, and it shows in the food.