“Any chance you have an 11 or 12?,” texts Will Artley, the executive chef at BLT Steak. “I don’t want to push it, but me and my clientele would love the opportunity.”
“Won’t know until we kill a cow, will let you know,” the person responds. “I’m glad you like our beef.”
He’s ID’d as “Wagyu Dude” in Artley’s phone, and even though Artley has never met him in-person and doesn’t know his actual name, Wagyu Dude is high on Artley’s list of favorite people right now.
On Thursday afternoon, Artley received a Fed Ex package at BLT Steak from K&K International Inc., a California-based beef distributor where Wagyu Dude works. Inside? One of the world’s rarest, highest-grade cuts of wagyu beef.
Wagyu is a Japanese cattle breed worshiped by chefs and gourmands for its luscious marbled meat. It’s evaluated according to strict standards established by the Japanese Meat Grading Association.
The “yield grade” ranges from C to A and is determined by the meat-to-carcass ratio, A being the best.
Artley’s is an A.
The “quality grade” ranges from 1 to 5 and is based on marbling, meat brightness, meat firmness and texture and fat brightness and quality.
Artley’s is a 5.
The “beef marbling standard” (B.M.S.) ranges from 1-12, based on the amount of fatty flecks woven throughout the meat.
Atrley’s is an 11.
In other words, Artley currently possesses the beef equivalent of the Hope Diamond. Wagyu Dude’s cattle even comes with a birth certificate, complete with a nose print of the animal, to combat forgery.
“An A5 is the absolute best you can get, and the average Japanese B.M.S. is 5.5” says Michael Beattie, executive director of the American Wagyu Association. “If you can get a photo of what he’s got, I’d like to see that.”
Artley’s relationship with Wagyu Dude began when he took over the kitchen at BLT Steak earlier this year, after his stint as executive chef at Pizzeria Orso in Falls Church. In his new role at the downtown steakhouse, Artley has been contacted by a number of purveyors all eager to get on his radar, though there’s only one that he deals with solely through texts.
“I would not categorize our relationship as normal,” Artley says of working with Wagyu Dude. “It’s like the first time I met my wife, I knew she was the one. I knew this guy was going to give me the opportunity to cook the best steak in my life.”
Artley rushed off the phone Thursday to butcher the cattle, after which he’ll know just how much meat he’ll be able to serve to BLT Steak diners.
It will be available starting Friday as part of BLT’s $150 wagyu tasting, as well as a la carte for $35 an ounce, with a four-ounce minimum.
“I can’t do 100 times what it’s worth,” Artley says. “If I put it too far out of reach for people, they won’t order it. And for me, I want to encourage people to try it. This is a bucket list type of thing.”
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