When the doors of Angus Meats and Delicatessen first opened in 1972, George Stachecki told the Spokane Chronicle that his new business would “do just about anything to satisfy a customer.”
He was thinking about custom-cutting steaks and offering different varieties of meats. He certainly wasn’t anticipating that more than 36 years later, his son, Tom, would be racing thousands of dollars worth of beef tenderloin to a customer after a mistake sent seared roasts into the trash.
“I walked into the kitchen and they had everybody lined up because we had over 250 pounds of beef tenderloin that had to be cleaned and trimmed,” says Tom Stachecki, who wouldn’t reveal his customer’s name.
Angus Meats was a deli only for a short time before the Stacheckis steered the Spokane business toward its wholesale customers instead. It was their focus for more than three decades, so Angus Meats hasn’t really become a household name. That’s beginning to change.
In the past year, Tom Stachecki and his wife, Leslie, have introduced a new meal line called Bold Eats that can be found in the freezers at Yoke’s and Albertsons grocery stores.
In a way, they’ve steered the business back to its genesis – what Detroit grocer and meat cutter George Stachecki said in that 1972 article was an effort to “bring back the old-time quality and personal service.”
Tom Stachecki started working for the family business in his teens and has done everything from help customers behind the deli counter, to serve as foreman of the wholesale meat cutting operation.
He’s run the business since his father retired, but still carries his knives with him. He had them the recent day when he made the banquet-saving delivery of beef tenderloin and stayed to prepare it for the ovens.
“I had my tie on; I tucked it in and they gave me a coat,” he says. “I didn’t invoice them or anything that night. I just said, ‘See you later.’
“That is the kind of thing that sometimes happens on the backside that you don’t see. It happens way more than you think. Maybe not that extreme, but it’s pretty amazing.”
He and Leslie launched the Bold Eats meal line a year ago, hiring local chef Curtis Smith to create its surprising flavors.
Smith, an instructor at the Inland Northwest Culinary Academy at Spokane Community College, previously worked at the Coeur d’Alene Resort, starting the Tito Macaroni’s restaurant during his 15-year tenure. That’s when he first started working with Stachecki and Angus Meats.
“Like any large resort we were buying meat from different companies, but whenever I had a question or I didn’t understand something or I needed more knowledge about meat, Tom was always the first person I would call,” Smith says. “If he didn’t know, he would find out.
“So after 15 years of that trusted relationship and having an expert source of information, when he called … it was an easy decision.”
Leslie Stachecki (who first noticed her future husband behind the original Angus Meats deli counter on North Waikiki Road) says she and Tom started tossing around the idea for the quick-to-fix meals a couple of years ago. They’re empty nesters who do a lot of skiing and golfing.
“I don’t know about you, but after a long day of skiing, the thought of going the store and then warming up a precooked thing is not appetizing,” she says.
They wanted to create something fast and portable that wasn’t like other meals in the freezer case, she says. They wanted restaurant quality and unusual ingredients.
The Stacheckis intended to create six flavors to start, but ended up with seven when they couldn’t agree on which dish to eliminate. They include: Chicken and Chorizo Succotash; Jerk Pork and Black Beans; Oaxaca Beef; Chicken Mirabella; Bambarre Pork and Peanut Ragout; Gorgonzola Beef or YinYang Beef.
The Bambarre Pork is pork sirloin, sweet potatoes, peppers and tomatoes in a peanut sauce. The Gorgonzola Beef includes beef, steamed vegetables, mushrooms and red potatoes in gravy with Gorgonzola cheese. Chicken Mirabella combines marinated chicken, dried figs, capers, olives and onions in a sweet sauce.
“All of the Bold Eats dishes are either things that I have been cooking at home, my wife has been cooking at home or have been special or menu items in the restaurants,” Smith says.
“Most frozen entrees and things you buy in store you are really just heating everything up, so it is all precooked,” he says. “Bold Eats is a unique product with flavors that you won’t see on the shelf next to them, but at the same time very simple to make.
“It takes a hair more skill than just reheating but you’re actually cooking … and it comes together easily.”
Bold Eats meals come with packets of frozen meat and vegetables and a sauce packet. Cooks thaw the package overnight in the refrigerator, or in the microwave, then sear the meat, add the vegetables, sauce and water, and simmer until done.
The $9 price tag makes them look more expensive than other frozen entrees, but their creators say a side-by-side comparison reveals a higher-quality product with more meat and vegetables. Bold Eats entrees make two large portions or four smaller meals.
“We’re actually a better value, because we’re giving you more,” Tom Stachecki says.
Each package contains eight ounces of ready-to-cook meats, instead of three ounces of already-cooked proteins in a comparable meal, he says.
Home cooks add a cup of water to the concentrated sauce in Bold Eats, so they’re not paying for water in the package. And while other meals rely on low-cost fillers such as rice and pasta, a Bold Eats meal of the same weight has none; cooks can add their own at home.
The meals are made and packaged at the Angus Meats processing plant on North Hogan Street.
Stachecki says he’s built on the principles his father envisioned for the business. He prides himself on finding regional sources for ingredients and providing high-quality products and personalized service.
That’s something that customer Dave Hill appreciates about Angus Meats. Hills Restaurant in downtown Spokane has relied on them since 1993, he says.
“Anything special I want, they’ll get it and find it or do it,” Hill says, adding he talked to Stachecki about finding a source for naturally raised pork belly. Hill wants it trimmed a certain way so he can make pancetta and bacon for the restaurant.
The Stacheckis are excited about the Bold Eats entrees and the direction they will take Angus Meats, but nervous, too.
Their confidence comes from sticking with the family traditions George Stachecki started.
“I’m doing the same thing that he did,” Tom Stachecki says. “You go where the business takes you.
“We’re taking the product that Angus Meats is known for, and Bold Eats is a natural extension of that.”