Name: Dominic McCourt
Job title: Manager and butcher
Company & location: Northfield Farm at Borough Market
Education: Not a great deal!
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? I always wanted to be some sort of rockstar, until I found out I have no rhythm and the sheep on the farm have a better singing voice than me.
Why did you decide to go for a career in food & drink? Northfield Farm is a family business and therefore I’d been around the farming and meat industry my whole life. I knew I wanted meaningful work, however, I didn’t really have a specific idea of what I wanted to do as a career.
I attended a ‘pig in a day’ course at the School of Artisan Food and I was hooked on the skill and intricacy of butchery. I then started working at our Borough Market business and very soon I knew going into the family business was the right move for me.
Explain your job to us in a sentence (or two): It’s my job to provide my customers with the best possible meat and help them elevate their cooking game. At Northfield Farm we focus on traditional and rare breed meat, so I see bringing customers closer to where their food comes from as part of my job too.
“I would like to be a part of elevating meat back to being one of the most celebrated products”
What does a typical day look like for you? While no two days are exactly the same, it’s always bound to involve some good meat, a sharp knife and hopefully a good meal at the end of it. Most days start by getting into the Borough Market stall very early and setting out the meat display in the morning. We take a lot of pride in the art of butchery and presenting our meat well.
Throughout the rest of the day we’ll be serving our customers. This is part of the job that never gets old, and over the years I’ve built a great relationship with so many of our clientele. Being a family business, I’ve known some of our regulars since I was a child. At Borough Market there’s a great mix of visitors as well as regular customers from the local community, who keep coming back for the market’s range and traders’ expertise.
Tell us how you went about applying for your job: I had the good fortune of being around the industry all of my life. But if I was giving any advice to anyone looking to get into the meat industry it would be to go into a butcher’s shop and just introduce yourself.
What’s the best part about working for a food & drink company? It’s very hard to pick just one, I’d have to say; all the characters you’ll meet and all the food you’ll eat.
Food and drink is fundamentally a community affair. People bond over food and drink, whether it be by preparing a home-cooked meal or by sharing a bottle of their favourite drink. A sense of connection and community built around food is very easy to see at Borough Market, where all the traders know each other, and often recommend their fellow traders to customers in search of a bottle of gin, a piece of cheese, or a good joint of meat.
And what’s the biggest misconception people have about working in food & drink? As a butcher I guess people assume you’re going to be a grumpy old man wearing a pork pie hat! I think many people assume the job is going to be 99% a retail job. In truth the work is a lot more varied.
As well as the people skills that are built, you’ll also find yourself working in fascinating areas that you may never have expected. For instance, just recently I was back on the farm talking to a soil and grass expert about the best environment for the animals.
What advice would you give to other young people looking to get into the food & drink industry? Just dive in headfirst. The barriers for entry are very low, but the prospects of success are very high.
In the UK we have had the tendency to look down on retail and food roles and view them as only temporary jobs rather than careers. But I do think the tide is turning, and we’re taking on more of a European attitude and beginning to treat food trade roles with the respect they deserve.
What’s your ultimate career dream? I would like to be a part of elevating meat back to being one of the most celebrated products. Part of this will be continuing to champion traditional rare breeds, promoting traceability when it comes to supply chains, and fostering a genuine field-to-fork attitude towards meat in the UK.
I’d like to be able to look back and know I’ve had a small part in keeping one of the world’s oldest and most important trades alive.