Executive Butcher Walter Apfelbaum
October 16 - 3:00 PM - Spotlight Theater
A long-time proponent of reviving the lost art of butchery, Executive Butcher Walter Apfelbaum brings a lifetime of experience to PRIME + PROPER Detroit, a modern, atypical steakhouse in Capitol Park hinging on the butcher’s carefully chosen and expertly prepared cuts, including in-house dryaging. He relishes his position at Heirloom Hospitality’s steakhouse, which showcases his butchery and allows him to educate chefs, servers, and guests on the best cuts for each dish and preference. “There’s nothing I want to do more than continue to learn, and educate others, about butchery,” he says, constantly up-to-date on his purveyors and how they feed, treat, and slaughter their animals to maintain only a premium selection. He focuses each and every day on passion, purpose, and progress, as it relates to cuisine and butchery, as well as staff management. “I compete with myself to be the best, to always be better than the day before. When I see a guest eating steak the way it’s supposed to be eaten, it’s an incredible moment for both of us.”
Apfelbaum grew up in an all-German household in New Jersey that believed in buying food from artisans, the European way—the butcher, the fish monger, the baker, and so on. “We always ate really fresh, local, and seasonal foods,” he says, “way before it became ‘cool’ in the States.” Befriending a local, old school German butcher, Apfelbaum regularly observed the carefully calculated cuts, and learned all about the animals’ trajectory, from the pasture to the plate, including the importance of treating them well for the best tasting meat; he also learned to listen, and to be humble.
The local butcher implored Apfelbaum to apprentice with a nearby Hilton hotel butcher, and Apfelbaum followed that up with a kosher butchery apprenticeship, as well as further training in Europe, where he learned Old World techniques. He also attended The Culinary Institute of America in New York, rounding out his skillset with culinary training, and went on to consult and stage at various restaurants and steakhouses in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The Hard Rock Café brand caught wind of Apfelbaum’s skillset, and placed him in charge of the meat programs at its high-caliber restaurants around the world. Apfelbaum also became the first butcher invited to host a James Beard House dinner.
In 2012, the butcher savant descended on Southern Florida to serve as head butcher at NYY Steak in the Seminole Casino Coconut Creek, a position he held until 2017, when Heirloom Hospitality Founder and CEO
Jeremy Sasson discovered the celebrated butcher through Instagram, and invited him to lead the charge at PRIME
+ PROPER Detroit, overseeing the “prime” meats—sourcing, butchering, dry-aging, educating—alongside the restaurant’s “proper” service. At PRIME + PROPER, Apfelbaum looks forward every day to talking to guests, learning their tastes and preferences, and introducing them to steak done right.
When he hangs up his cleaver, the butcher enjoys heading home to Detroit’s Woodbridge neighborhood,
and spending time with his wife, Brittany.