Q&A with Kelly Kawachi of Blackbelly Market
Kelly Kawachi is the head butcher at Blackbelly Market, overseeing the whole-animal butchery and charcuterie programs at the restaurant and its market counter. She joined the farm-to-table restaurant’s team in 2016 and learned the art of butchery on the job, rising the ranks quickly and winning the MICHELIN Guide Colorado 2023 Culinary Professional Award.
What makes Blackbelly’s butchery program unique and how does it impact the meals its customers eat?
Here, we utilize snout-to-tail, as I like to say, and that, in turn, is reflected in our restaurant dishes. It means our cooks get to have a little more fun and creativity in taking non-traditional cuts and making dishes that appeal to the dining customer.
If you had an afternoon off and you were free to spend an afternoon in Boulder, how would you spend it?
If it’s summer, I’d go and take a really good hike. If it’s winter, I’d go to Eldora Mountain Resort to snowboard and then I’d hit up a brewery. (That’s kind of the running joke that Coloradoans do something active and their go-to afterward is always to go to a brewery.) My favorite breweries are Vision Quest and Kettle and Spoke. They are kind of near each other, but they have completely different styles. Vision Quest is pretty experimental.
Where do you like to eat on a day off?
I always like Basta. When I moved here, it was one of the restaurants that blew me away. I’ve taken all my family and friends there. There are also the empanadas at Rincon Argentino. Those are as good as I’ve ever had!
What inspires you about Boulder’s dining scene?
People like to joke about the “Boulder bubble” in a teasing way. But I think it's a community that is constantly supporting each other, local ranchers and local farmers.
Restaurants are always quick to jump to help each other in supporting the causes that mean something to them. It's like a family almost. If we need honey, there are so many local honey harvesters right in Boulder. When we went to add kombucha to our offerings, there were several kombucha makers right in town. Everyone's living in harmony, encouraging each other with a “rising tide lifts all boats” kind of mentality, which I've always loved about Boulder.
Why do you think there are so many people passionate about culinary arts here?
I think people in this town care about their bodies. They do a lot of research to make sure they know where their food is coming from.
What do you recommend for friends or family when they come to visit in Boulder?
I like to recommend they go to Chautauqua, walk a little bit on one of the paths toward the Flatirons. Walk through the Boulder Farmers Market, which is a cool way of seeing that community we were talking about earlier. And don’t miss Blackbelly! Come have breakfast, lunch or dinner — or all three!