See What It’s Like to Go Out for Barbecue With a Vegetarian and a Meat Eater

Katie Bell works at one of the best restaurants in the country, but she doesn’t eat everything on the menu.
Dec 12, 2014·
Josh Scherer has written for Epicurious, Thrillist, and Los Angeles magazine. He is constantly covered in corn chip crumbs.

Katie Bell stopped eating meat after her startling preschool revelation that the adorable, feathery creatures running around on farms were the same animals that go into crispy, golden-fried chicken nuggets.

But as the service director at New York City’s Blue Hill, which was named one of Food and Wine’s top 10 life-changing restaurants, she wonders if her herbivorous lifestyle might be holding her back from doing her job properly.

“After pairing wine and beer with meat, and talking to guests about our tasting menu, I started wanting to be more qualified,” Bell says.

She also sees a different side of the meat industry now: Blue Hill has been a pioneer in the farm-to-table movement, and it has its own four-season farm and educational center where chef Dan Barber has been raising the bar for raising happy pigs. Bell talks about how “working closely with people who are raising and butchering animals” changed her perception of meat.

So Bell and her chef boyfriend Andy Wooton set out on a culinary journey to introduce her palate to some ethically sourced animals.

They first stop at the acclaimed Alma in Los Angeles, where chef Ari Taymor describes his culinary philosophy on meat. Taymor says he never serves portions over 3.5 ounces, and he often uses meat as a seasoning, just to bring out the essential flavors of a vegetable.

Bell and her beau then go to Barrel & Ashes, a nouveau L.A. barbecue joint, to try the real thing. There, Bell stares down a piece of smoked brisket, apparently unfazed by the heavy bark but still hesitant. She looks pensive, almost confused at the bite of food in her mouth, but she pushes through.

Her final verdict on her first barbecue eating experience? “I really liked the chicken; it was really good,” she says. And as for Wooton, the meat guy in the relationship? He thought the beets and brussels sprouts were the best part of the meal.