Chef David Mills and wife, Kelli, opened the Smoke & Pickles Artisan Butcher Shop & Kitchen with a dual mission in mind: Repair a broken food system while promoting eating well.
Located at 30 S. Market St., in downtown Mechanicsburg, Smoke & Pickles opened in February after extensive building renovations and installation of a kitchen, a restaurant seating area and display cases and coolers. Upon entering the shop, patrons can observe a chalkboard above the meat case displaying the list of farms supplying the items offered that day.
All of the participating farms were personally qualified by David Mills following his research and field verification of organics claims, including grass-feeding and pastured meat practices. All participating farms are located within 40 miles of the shop in Adams, Cumberland, Perry and York counties.
With help from the farms, Smoke & Pickles offers both dine-in services for lunch and dinner Wednesdays to Sundays, as well as locally sourced meat and dairy products, farm-fresh eggs, cold-brined pickles and a variety of teas, vinegars and hot sauces displayed throughout the shop. Chicken eggs, duck eggs, whole milk and chocolate milk, which are packaged in returnable glass bottles, can be found in the restaurant seating area cooler.
Some of Smoke & Pickles’ meat offerings include hickory-smoked meats, marinated pork chops, marrow bones, smoked dog treat bones, and sausages made without nitrates or nitrites, including Chorizo spiced with cold-smoked Jalapeno pepper dust.
Mills’ inspiration for buying and preparing local foods grew from his experiences as a culinary instructor at HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, where he conducted culinary classes abroad. While touring Italian farms, orchards, vineyards and restaurants with 16 HACC students, Mills said he was impressed by the Italian specialty markets and the practices of the locals in creating meals from seasonally available meats and produce.
“While eating well, we realized that eating fresh, local food makes you feel better,” Mills said.
After his return to the United States, Mills said he realized he was not eating as well as he had in Italy and vowed to make a difference. He joined American Federation Culinary Foundation and the Landisburg-based Leadership, Education and Farming (LEAF) Project, a program promoting farming experiences for youth. Mills now serves on the LEAF board and participates with other local chefs in offering annual farm to table “Savor Events” with LEAF partner farms each fall.
In January 2018, Mills attended a Caputo Brothers Creamery program at York’s Pullo Center. A presentation by Dario Checchini, an internationally famous butcher he met in Italy during the HACC culinary tour, inspired Mills.
“I decided that day to open a butcher shop,” he said.
One year later, he realized his vow.
Although Mills had some past butchering experience from working in country club kitchens, he enlisted the assistance of Art Shaffer, a third generation butcher who began his career in 1961. Shaffer and 17 other part-time employees round out the Smoke & Pickles staff.
Mills has maintained his relationship with HACC, working as an adjunct professor of culinary arts. He is teaching brewing science at HACC’s York Campus and has plans for another culinary tour of Italy in March 2020, as well as future culinary tours of France, Portugal and Spain.
Meanwhile, he prepares local foods at Smoke & Pickles.
When asked which of his creations is his favorite, he said he takes the greatest pride in his customers’ reactions to the quality of Smoke & Pickles foods over similar foods they have encountered. For more information on current products, the menu and operating hours, visit Smoke & Pickles’ website at www.SmokeandPicklesLTD.com.