Culinary Grad Makes Sustainability Her Focus on the Job

Kayla Weinstein '20 at her internship site, The Butcher’s Market in Charlotte.Kayla Weinstein '20 never pictured herself as a butcher. This long-time vegetarian discovered a deeply unexpected love of meat-cutting when she took Associate Instructor Michael Calenda’s Product Identification & Protein Fabrication class –— and that led her to an internship at the Butcher’s Market in South Charlotte.

“I had never worked in a kitchen!” gushed Weinstein, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Geography at Colgate University in New York. After working for four years at Colgate in the Leadership and Student Involvement office, the home cooking enthusiast decided to get an Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree in culinary arts from JWU Charlotte’s College of Food Innovation & Technology (then College of Culinary Arts), where she learned the importance of sustainability. “First,” she says, “It is important to know where your meat is coming from; how are the animals raised and how is the meat processed? How far is it shipped?”

Calenda says, “[Weinstein] was a very motivated student who was absolutely transformed in my class. She loved handling the meats and was always very eager. I think what got her so excited is that she started with a sub-primal cut fabricated it down into something beautiful and ready for cooking. Cutting meat can be a religious experience for some people. The meat cutting lab was cold and quiet, which also allows students a calming environment in which to excel.”

Weinstein’s interests in geography and culinary collide from time to time at the Butcher’s Market, for instance when she sees shrimp or even grits. “Thinking through how shrimp that was farmed in Vietnam can end up in our store in Charlotte, or a more local example, how we sell several varieties of grits, which are harder to find in Massachusetts. All of this relates to geography through climate, trade and migration patterns. I find all of this very interesting! Both degrees have given me a strong foundation in understanding culture through food.”

Her passion during her internship led to a full-time kitchen management position. “By researching and reaching out to employers that were of interest, asking for the interviews and narrowing down the opportunities, she found an internship that was the best fit for her interests, skills and career path,” noted Jodi Wood, JWU Charlotte experiential education coordinator.

Shopping locally is a great way to support the local farmers in your community, while reducing the environmental impact of shipping and transit.

Weinstein had to learn fast — from placing orders and receiving to the new point-of-sale system and more meat-cutting. “This was an experiment for me,” explained general manager Jason Burgos. “Do I bring someone in from outside or work with someone here to get them into management? She is reliable and dependable and her OCD is a plus! I’m very happy, I have my key people in place now.”

And as a key employee, Weinstein keeps a keen eye on procedures and work habits to help the bottom line.

“I truly believe that making sustainable choices is an essential aspect of any business. At the Butcher’s Market, we reduce waste by utilizing as much of the product as possible, sometimes in several different applications. For example, we will use trimmed beef fat in burgers, as well as package it for sale; we marinate the ends of our beef tenderloins, after cutting filet mignon, to sell as tenderloin tips; we use chicken and pork trimmings in our sausages. Our whole kitchen was developed as a way to use up leftover product to reduce waste.”

It is clear interest and demand for sustainability is exponentially increasing when it comes to purchasing meat, and it is part of her job to build trust among their customers and serve the best sustainable product available.

“Shopping locally is a great way to support the local farmers in your community, while reducing the environmental impact of shipping and transit. We get chicken from Joyce Farms and pork from Heritage Farms Cheshire Pork, both in North Carolina. Our customers recognize the farms and sometimes come specifically for that product, which is great for the business as well.”


Weighing up an order at the Butcher’s Market in Charlotte.