The Farmlink Interview, Part I

On February 28, 2015, the following interview was published between West Michigan Farmlink and Duba & Co. Here is the abridged version, published in parts.


How long has Duba & Co been in operation? Can you give me a brief history of the company?
In 2005 Duba‘s Restaurant closes after having sold their property to Northpointe Bank. Long-time patrons of the restaurant keep saying “It’s hard to find a good steak in town.” Duba‘s Steaks, LLC, is born as a legal but not yet operational entity circa Fall 2010. We’d be a local “Omaha Steaks”, purveying the choice (but conventional) steaks sourced from Duba‘s Restaurant’s long-time butcher. December 2011: Butcher closes, and we begin to look for new sourcing, traveling as far as Colorado. Spring 2012: while researching a presentation on heirloom vegetables, I discover a buried treasure–the existence of “heritage meats”, the carnivorous equivalent of heirloom vegetables. I’m undone by their romance, and eventually decide I’m “all-in” on heritage meats and under the impression we’d be the first purveyors of heritage meats in the country (in actuality, we’re the first east of the Hudson River–Heritage Foods USA in Brooklyn, NY, had us beat by a decade). Summer/Fall 2012: The search begins for the best in heritage meats. November 2012: The Burger That Changed Everything: late harvest Scottish Highland beef. Never before had I tasted meat that good. With funding from local venture-capital firm (Start Garden), Duba & Co. launches and opens for business in June 2013.
What got you interested in heritage beef? Did this grow out of your family’s culinary history in the area at all?
It all comes back to craft ales, the enchantment of Scotland, Ireland, and the Old World, and my love of “the Shire”–it’s ethos and way of life which heritage meats embody par excellence. But, yes–absolutely, yes–it’s in the blood: the role food plays in fostering family and friendship, the role of ambiance in creating an experience. I learned those lessons growing up in Duba‘s Restaurant and around the family table which, really, Duba‘s Restaurant was just an extension of.
How closely do you work with your farmers? Do you visit the farms? What are those relationships like?
We know all of our farmers personally and visit the farms, often more than once–even if it’s just stopping by for coffee or to say “hi” because we’re in the area. But the bottom line is trust. We only do business with people we trust, and we have beef and pork affidavits on file for all of the farms with which we currently work. It’s rare that we would carry product from a farm that we didn’t visit and have only done so because of the farm’s upstanding reputation and the personal relationship developed with the farmers themselves. Our farmers are our business partners, quite frankly.
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