Being the great, great, great granddaughter of media baron William Randolph Hearst has its perks, even when you’re a chef. In New York, while her kin toll in the publishing and broadcasting empire uptown at Hearst Tower, chef Emma Hearst is downtown showcasing the family beef at Sorella.
Beef from cattle raised on the central California ranch has been on the Piedmont-focused menu since opening day earlier this year–first as delicate carpaccio and currently as tender carne cruda, a Piedmontese take on beef tartare.
The Hearst beef is Emma’s own take on the special cattle used to create the dish. “Why wouldn’t I?” she says plainly in a conversation with Fork in the Road. “It’s not mushed up. It’s just tossed with salt, pepper, and olive oil.”
Traditionally made only with the prized white cattle raised in the northern Italian Alps, the cruda is not ground, but instead hand-cut each day into small dice for a satisfyingly chewier feel. Seasoned to order and shaped into a beautiful puck, Hearst currently serves it with crispy fried shallots, lemon aioli, sugar snap peas, and Parmesan salad.
At Sorella, the meat comes from Hereford, Angus, and Shorthorns steer, which spend their lives on 80,000 acres of oceanfront ranch at San Simeon, William Randolph’s onetime secluded castle home. “The bulls are kept down by the beach, the cattle are kept overlooking the ocean in complete silence. It’s amazing. They live a completely natural existence. I wish I was one of them.”
The cows are slaughtered once a week, and while other chefs around the country must go through the regular distribution channels, Emma’s uncle ships her two top rounds a week by plane in boxes packed with “lots and lots of dry ice.”
For now, she’s getting 10 pounds of beef each week, but if she were to hold true to Piedmont tradition, she admits she would use veal, which the Hearsts currently do not raise.
“I am trying to get them to do veal,” she says. “They just have to start killing them younger.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 26, 2009