Simon Taylor is the successful owner of Surrey Hills Butchers. Having committed over two decades of his life to the art of butchery, it is fair to say that he knows a thing or two about the perfect BBQ.
You started butchery when you were just 13. What made you so sure this was the way forward for you as a career at such a young age?
“At 13, the main thing I was after was money. I have always been comfortable with food, so working as a butcher came naturally to me. It gradually became a passion and now I wouldn’t be without it.”
Where did your passion stem from?
“When I started my career, I wasn’t passionate about butchery. It wasn’t until I came across a butcher called Rob Muscle, who showed me that I should be proud of my industry, that I really started to love it. Over time, I just got very passionate about produce, and the power food has in bringing people together to create a strong community.”
“I just got very passionate about produce, and the power food has in bringing people together to create a strong community”
You’ve recently branched out to two locations. How long has the Surrey Hills Butchers been open?
“So, Surrey Hills Butchers has been going as a company for about 12 years. The newest shop has been open for about 3 months. It’s based in an old cow barn to help emphasise the local connection to farming. It’s a work-in-progress, but it is lovely to be in a new space to keep on building and moving this company forward. There’s a great supply chain through the Surrey hills and we work closely with the farms in this area.”
What does a day in your life look like?
“It’s tricky to run a business, so a typical day in my life at the moment is a lot of book-keeping. But, whenever I can, I will be in the shops doing what I love to do. I love being at the block. I love to cut meat and produce food for people. I love service. Through food I can do all of that.”
There is no better thing than spending a Bank Holiday around a BBQ with your favourite people. What are your top tips to make it one to remember?
“One of the best things you can do at a BBQ is to invite as many people as possible. Provide good food and good company will follow. It is important to remember that the supply chain of everything that goes into the meal is crucial. This includes elements of charcoal, meat, and veg. If you get that right, your place will become the BBQ to be.”
What can't you live without when it comes to BBQ kits?
“You’re definitely going to want a good grill. When it comes to grills I work with Monolith, which is a ceramic BBQ and is fantastic for holding temperatures and you can do all sorts of cooks. You can smoke, you can grill, you can low and slow cook. It’s very versatile. It also looks very good! A temperature probe is also really important. You’ve made an investment in the ingredients, so you’re going to want to make sure you are cooking them to temperature, not time. We can give you a time guide, but it’s the temperature of that product that really matters. The thermapen is brilliant in terms of temperature gauging equipment. It's very accurate and easy to use. ”
“One of the best things you can do at a BBQ is to invite as many people as possible. Provide good food and good company will follow.”
What makes for an unreal marinade with ingredients you find around the house?
“The best piece of advice I could give you would be to just try it. If you think it goes, it goes! An example of a simple marinade is to mix mayonnaise with garlic granules or dried herbs. If you have any lying around, pop in a bit of spice. Mix that through and you’ve got a nice easy marinade. ”
In terms of BBQ attire, what’s your usual get-up?
"If I’m at home and I’m on the BBQ, then I put an apron on. An apron is very good in front of the BBQ because it’s inevitable you’re going to get into a mess. I have also been known to do BBQ’s in the full get-up (a shirt and bow tie)—it’s kind of my thing. But in general, wear whatever you’re most comfortable in."
Will you BBQ in the rain or would you prefer to call the whole thing off?
“BBQ in the rain. A lot of people these days are lucky because they’ve got outdoor cover. If you don’t, keep a gazebo in the garage. Pop it up and don’t let the rain stop you! ”
What’s the best tipple to go with a steak?
“For me, I like rum. However, if I’m having a really nice piece of steak, then it is a glass of red for me. I tend to opt for Malbec.”
"I have also been known to do BBQ’s in the full get-up (a shirt and bow tie)—it’s kind of my thing."
What is your favourite cut and why?
“I love to eat all sorts of cuts, but my favourite cut at the moment is a bavette steak. It’s what we call a "secondary steak". This means it’s half the price of the normal rib-eye or sirloin, but when you cook it nice and quick and carve it against the grain, it can be just as good as buying that higher-quality steak, but you’ve saved half the money.”
Follow Surrey Hills Butchers on Instagram @surreyhillsbutchers
Visit the Surrey Hills Butchers and get a taste of the community at Hogs Back Surrey Farm Brewery - Manor Farm, The Street Tongham, Farnham, GU10 1DE.