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From Pasture to Plate with Chef Robert Hale

Herds of cattle have long dotted the Texas landscape, and beef is a big part of our culinary heritage. Its rich flavors and almost endless recipe possibilities inspire chefs and home cooks alike. To learn more, we sat down with Chef Robert Hale, an expert in all things beef.

The Resilience of family ranchers

The story of beef begins on the family ranch - the backbone of the beef industry, and the reason we have quality products to serve in restaurants and cook at homes. But ranches are a place where the work never ends and the challenges stack up like a trailer load of hay bales.

“There are 130,000 cattle producers in the state of Texas,” says Robert. “With families that have been producing cattle from generation to generation. But many of these are small ranches, and the average herd size is just 40 head of cattle.”

The biggest challenge for ranchers is the unpredictable weather. Droughts have taken a toll in recent years, and ranchers have found themselves struggling to provide adequate food and water for their cattle. This impacts animal health, production costs, and ultimately the final prices of beef at the store.

Despite these hardships, ranchers persevere and rely on resources like the educational programs offered by the Texas Beef Council to improve their operations. Initiatives like Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) training and other educational resources can help ranchers optimize their ranching practices and mitigate the effects of uncontrollable factors like drought.

Introducing chefs and ranchers

To truly appreciate beef, it’s important to follow the journey from pasture to plate. “We’re definitely blessed to be able to take chefs and food and beverage directors to actually meet the producers in our industry,” says Robert. “We get chefs out of the kitchen, and they get to spend time with meat scientists, nutritionists, and see our producers’ operations.”

Ultimately, these professionals explore the entire supply chain, all the way through the harvest. They know first-hand where their beef comes from. And for those who can’t make the trip into the field, the Texas Beef Council presents a virtual experience called, The Raw Truth about Beef . Videos and interviews take you behind the scenes to learn about each stage of the beef lifecycle and find out how cattle are raised. As Robert puts it, “They can see the kitchen right out there in the field.” Those who complete the full course are beef certified.

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Making the most of every cut

The dynamic dining industry demands continuous innovation from restaurant owners and chefs. Some customers can be hesitant to try new things while others crave new flavors. Chef Robert is willing to step outside the box and push the boundaries of traditional beef cuts.

While classics like filet mignon and rib-eyes tend to crowd the spotlight, chefs have started exploring lesser-known cuts to diversify their menus and surprise diners with new flavor profiles. This experimentation enables chefs to discover hidden gems such as flat iron steak—a tender, flavorful cut often overlooked by home cooks.

The trick is to be able to sell those new dishes on the menu. “If you’re a regular, and you order the same thing everygrilled-ribye-steaks-and-potatoes-with-smoky-paprika-rub-square time, I’m going to give you what you want," says Chef Robert. "But the next time you come in, I might also send you a little something else to try. I may send out braised beef cheek, for example. We’re in the hospitality industry. And at the end of the day, we’re inviting folks into our homes. The restaurant, the hotel, those are our homes. We want you to have a smile on your face and have a great dining experience.”

When Chef Robert isn’t dodging white-tailed deer traveling Texas’ highways, he’s probably serving up tender cuts of beef at a special event. Sometimes it’s in a pasture where most people don’t think about the challenges that presents. Where is the power coming from? Where is the heat coming from? Where can we put the dirty dishes? He’s cooked for the media at the Daytona 500, and he’s cooked for the Thunderbirds. “Cooking for the flyover team was an honor and a privilege,” says Robert. “And by the way, we cooked for them after they flew. There were lots of questions about them not being able to fit into their uniforms anymore.”

Tips for home cooks

Beef Loving Texans Texas Red ChiliBringing a bit of restaurant magic into our homes doesn’t have to be hard. With some planning and the right recipe, you’ll be ready to experiment. Start with the amazing recipes on the Beef Loving Texans website! These are tried and true recipes – they’ve already done the work, testing the flavors and editing the instructions. All you have to do is ENJOY.

Elaine’s personal favorite is the classic Texas Red Chili, which includes your favorite bottle of Texas beer. 

With the Beef Loving Texans recipes, home cooks can feel confident while they unleash their inner chef!

One quick tip: Chef Robert noted that while people are quick to spend money on fancy grills, smokers, and pressure cookers, they often skimp when it comes to knives.

“I would highly, highly, highly, recommend investing in a good knife,” says Robert. “And keep it sharp. Take a knife skills class if you’re not comfortable with a knife. Cooking will be a whole lot more fun.”

One Bite at a Time

Follow Chef Robert and the Texas Beef Council online. He’s part of the Beef Loving Chefs community and is active in the Texas Chef’s Association. He’ll help you elevate your love of beef, one bite at a time.







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