A butcher, a baker and a candlestick maker, Chattanooga style
“Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub. And who do you think they be? The butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker. Turn them out, knaves all three.”
Originally published in 1798, the “Rub-A-Dub-Dub” nursery rhyme speaks of three tradesfolk and the nonsense of possible debauchery. Although the meaning behind this short lyrical piece may be cryptic, the three professions clearly prove to be in existence since the beginning of time and rhyme. There is currently so much emphasis on farm-to-table and where your food comes from. But what about where your table comes from or all the other awesome things placed upon it?
With an influx of the working class going back to a less industrial time and working for themselves, becoming a craftsman can be trying on the back and the wallet, but so many choose to pursue it for a better work life balance.
However, it is a common theme to find those who own their own business, especially one where they produce a physical item, work non-stop but still their joy in life exudes beyond the time clock. We sat down with three local artisans to see what their handcrafted day is like and what the end of their work week produces besides a tangible product. Here is a little insight into what each one had to say and also what they eat for breakfast…
The Butcher: Any Way You Slice It
Main Street Meats began adjacent to a butcher shop and as the demand for farm fresh beef, pork and chicken grew, so did the need for skilled butchers to intricately cut portions for restaurant patrons and wholesalers. After achieving a degree from the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont and investing over a decade on the west coast executing French cuisine, Brent Harding returned to his hometown and joined the Main Street Meats team.
“There’s a difference between cooking to pay the rent versus cooking because you love it,” Brent said when describing how work has been since he moved back. “I wanted to be a part of a place that cares and believes in putting out quality product.”
Although he received a formal culinary education, Brent said the classes briefly went over breaking down whole meats but not the precise, surgical cuts required to be successful solely as a butcher. He received further training from Main Street Meats’ original butcher, Milton White, and mastered the art of butchery.
Brent comments that while he can do the work, Head Butcher Parker Hudson who joined in 2015, can do it blindfolded.
“There is some romanticized idea of working with your hands. The incredible amount of physically demanding labor does make being a butcher like the construction worker of the food industry.”
Although his muscles may ache from standing on his feet in the USDA certified prep area, Brent says it’s the joys of working in a place with integrity and drive that keeps him standing tall every day. “I’m proud, not because our stuff is made in Chattanooga. I’m proud because it’s damn good.” He continued his prideful speak when talking about the release of MSM’s revamped salami. The less crumbly concoction should be ready to release to the public in December.
And when it comes to his “Breakfast of Champions”, Brent goes with the old standby: coffee. “It is terrible but I am usually a one-meal-a-day guy and the rest of my time if filled with a liquid diet consisting mostly of coffee. But if I had to have an Achilles’ heel and treat myself for something that would jumpstart my day, it would be a Velo Cappucino.”
The Baker: Flour Power
Like the job of a butcher and other hands-on profession, you have to have above average strength to handle the physical demands of being a baker.
“Although flour does gets everywhere, I mean like even after you shower it’s still there, it’s the repetitive muscle motions that really hurt are the biggest hazard of being a baker,” says Sara Lanham.
A baker at Niedlov’s Breadworks for over six years, says that all her professions beforehand have always gravitated towards the lost arts. As an Art History major, who also dabbled in pre-med, book binding and metal-smithing, she finds joy in preserving the “process of feel.” With no formal training, this self-proclaimed dilettante claims it was the heaps and heaps of on-the-job training that helped shaped her into the successful baker today.
Although unsure why I went in with the preconceived notion that most bakers were female, Sara states that contrary that females in the baker’s world is a rarity but former Niedlov’s owner John Sweet wanted to mix things up so to speak.
“Pastries and the kitchen, not so much but bread is my world.” Sara said when describing which area she excelled at most. With baking, she added, there is this wonderful attribute where you get to give constant attention to one task. Multitasking in baking is not common as there is a flow where you can’t begin one step before finishing another and therefore the concentrated time of only doing one thing is so simplistic and rewarding.
The best advice she gives to anyone interested in pursuing becoming a professional baker is to experiment with a recipe like a science experiment with a control variable then observe any changes with all five senses.
And her “Breakfast of Champions”?
“Although I love all the sweet treats we make, I would have to say Niedlov’s granola is something I crave to get my morning routine going. And Black Tea”
The Candlestick Maker: Churning & Burning
Like Sara at Niedlov’s, Debbie Blinder of Full Circle Candles has a passion for baking, cooking and chemistry. Although Debbie never thought she would be making a living from a craft oriented business since she did not consider herself crafty, she has been successfully in business for herself for the past five years.
Originally from New Jersey, she made several full revelations between her northern hometown and Florida before getting lost in route and finding a perfect place in the middle here in Tennessee. Full Circle Candles, has a focus about the karma of what goes around comes around says that was the idea behind the name of her Monteagle based candle company.
“You would think the hot burning wax would be the hazard but it’s really the olfactory gland being overwhelmed with all the scents,” Debbie explains when talking about the ups and downs of being a candle maker. She says the nuisance of the nose is better than what she was inhaling before, the toxins from big business candle companies who mostly use crude oils, which is what causes the black smudge on the candle jar.
“I had breathing issues before I started my candle company so I looked into what they’re made out of and realized I needed to take care of my wellbeing inside the home as well as outside.” Debbie says she is an activist and very involved in making the world a better place for her daughter and her customers. She does not test on animals, does not use petroleum, lead, carcinogens or other harmful chemicals. She is proud to use 100 percent renewable soy wax, eco-friendly wicks and has a fantastic recycling program. Bring back your spent Full Circle Candle jars and get a $3 discount.
Debbie lights up when she says how she’s received more than 500 recycled jars in the last couple of years. With her shop set up at Hallelujah Pottery, during the week Debbie travels to more central locations to sell including festivals and markets like the Sewanee Festival and the Sunday Chattanooga Market. Her scents are also available seven days a week at Whole Foods in North Chattanooga, Earth Fare in Hixson and Blue Chair.
With over 50 scents to choose from, there is no description that could do any of her creations justice. Highlights include her first innovations like Sunny Day (Lemon and Verbena) and Soul Friends (Sage and Pomegranate). Top sellers include Hippyland (Cedarwood and Patchouli), Morning Start (Coffee), and an award winner from the Chattanooga Market Peach Festival, Georgia Peach.
She says her top three are Beach Paradise (Coconut and Lime), Ruby Red (Grapefruit) and the one named after her daughter, Autumn Spice (Cinnamon, Clove and Orange). Cute names like East Meets West (Ginger and Saffron) and Sizzling Sunrise (Bacon) are as enticing as the scents. There is something for everyone and the candles start a $9 each or 2/$16.
Debbie encourages anyone looking to start their own business to find your worth. Debbie is also teaching community classes as she enjoys sharing ideas in promoting positive health for body, mind, spirit and the environment.
She has received so much support from the community that she is starting to expand into soaps and scrubs.
Her “Breakfast of Champions” is the simple bagel and coffee. “I’ve got to represent Jersey here and say lox and bagel. An everything bagel with plain cream cheese, maybe some local tomato and lox. And of course, coffee. Always start with coffee.”
Although extremely diverse in their educational backgrounds and professional discoveries, these three tradespeople have several things in common besides the rub-a-dub-dub.
None of them were officially trained by a certified expert in order to progress in a locally owned, successful business. They each found a trade they thought interesting and could be lucrative, and pursued it. Each one, interviewed separately, said that they do this because they love the people and the process.
“A huge benefit is the people I get to meet,” Debbie says. “Their energy when they talk about how much they (or the friend they gifted it to) love my candles. A stranger’s genuine affirmation of what you’re doing really does help push you through an arduous day.”
It helps to do something you love and Marc Twain said it best: “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”