Doug Cohen and Justin Aronoff are a young pair of butchers whose passion for meat has spread far beyond their Center Cuts store in Roslyn.
Out on the East End some loyal customers won’t go for even a weekend without having their culinary creations to enjoy. To satisfy those roving carnivores, these two men are taking their show on the road…to the Hamptons and beyond.
“We went out and bought a big refrigerated truck,” said Cohen, who just turned 27 over the Memorial Day holiday, “and we’re going to be doing home deliveries on Fridays and Saturdays out there.”
Cohen is the elder of the pair; his partner, Aronoff, is only 22, but they talk about their craft like two old-timers who’ve been in the business for generations. After graduating with a degree in hospitality and restaurant management, Cohen was managing the now-defunct Meat House on Northern Boulevard in Roslyn when Aronoff came in one day looking for a job.
“We hated each other instantly,” recalled Cohen, making Aronoff burst out laughing. Soon they were spending late nights at Starbucks talking about the butcher business.
“And that was before we even knew what we were going to do,” he added. “But we both knew that we wanted to own our own place.”
Another thing they had in common was their close connection to the area and their clientele. Aronoff went to Roslyn High School and Cohen went to The Wheatley School in Old Westbury.
“You can’t get closer to the neighborhood than that,” said Aronoff.
While they were plotting their future, The Meat House and its nearby rival, Prime Time Butchers, were going under. Far from seeing that decline as a sign that the vegetarians had taken over and everybody would be eating nothing but tofu from then on, these guys saw it as an opportunity.
As for going organic, when they opened Center Cuts in 2014, they stocked 100-percent grass-fed beef but the demand for it wasn’t as strong as they anticipated.
“In all honesty, it’s a little tougher, a little less tasty than a prime steak, which has that really buttery, really rich flavor,” said Cohen. “A lot of our customers are looking for that, so that’s what we sell more of.”
All the meat and poultry in Center Cuts is free of hormones and antibiotics, Cohen claims. He says they’ll gladly order grass-fed beef to please a customer “but it’s just less popular” so they don’t keep it around.
Wait a minute: Considering on online MBA? There’s many benefits to pursuing a master’s in business administration online rather than the traditional in-class setting
As the summer heats up, so does their schedule. These days Cohen and Aronoff are busy barbecuing for families other than their own because the catering side of their operation is simply sizzling.
“We’re going to be out in the Hamptons, doing a party at somebody’s house,” said Cohen. “We have parties all over the neighborhood. We go there, we bring our chefs and servers and everything, and we cook for them.” They’re booked up through June and July is filling up fast. And that’s their weekend plans. On weekdays they’re often catering lunches to financial firms and companies in the area such as Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, and UPS. A typical order might entail five or six full trays of food.
“The offices love our maple-bourbon chicken breasts, sliced, with an orzo salad and sweet mashed potatoes,” said Aronoff. “It’s healthy and it’s clean. That’s really popular.”
Aronoff says that another one of Center Cuts’ specialties is their “signature house steak tips,” which consists of marinated sirloin steak tips that they place in a vacuum-sealed tumbling machine.
“We have two marinades that we do,” said Cohen. “We put the meat in there with the marinade, and it gets really infused into the meat. People go crazy for it. They’re perfect for the grill. Kids love them; adults love them.”
They also have a special burger blend of ground brisket and ground boneless short ribs.
“They’re both prime cuts,” Cohen explained. “It’s hamburger but it’s like the juiciest, tastiest hamburger you’ve ever had.”
As could be expected, the pair was tight-lipped about listing all the ingredients in their marinades.
“Our house marinade is a mild Italian [blend],” said Aronoff. “It’s got garlic, onion, and black pepper. We put a little bit of mustard seed in there, and add a little bit of red wine vinegar to give the meat some tenderness. That’s our special house marinade. The other flavor we do is maple bourbon, which people love.”
They also have a home-made barbecue rub that they make in-house.
“We toast all the spices and we grind them down,” Aronoff explained. “If we do barbecued-style pulled beef, or barbecue-style pulled pork—anything like that—we use that rub in combination with a homemade barbecue sauce, too.”
So, you might ask, what do these young men have for lunch, assuming they have the time to sit down and enjoy it?
“This is where Justin is really going to shine,” said Cohen. “I’ll let him tell you what he eats.”
“We do a steak and cheese hero that we’re known for,” Aronoff said. “We take our house steak tips, and we slice them up. They’re sautéed with peppers and onions, and topped with white American cheese. And that’s our signature sandwich. We put it on regular Italian bread.”
That’s about as close to the Philly cheesesteak as Center Cuts gets.
“For me,” said Cohen, “I would take a brisket burger, medium rare, with American cheese and smoked bacon. That’s just one man’s opinion.”
Just then Gail Aronoff, Justin’s mom, who frequently helps out at the butcher store, happened to be in the office when the young men spoke to the Press.
“What about a woman’s opinion?” she volunteered. “Women like the Roslyn!”
“We have a sandwich called ‘The Roslyn,’” noted Cohen.
“The Roslyn is marinated grilled chicken with roasted red peppers, fresh mozzarella, which we make in-house, and a homemade balsamic dressing that we make in-house, too,” Aronoff helpfully explained.
His mom admitted that she “never, never” would have predicted that her 22-year-old son would have become such an accomplished butcher. “I’m proud every day,” Gail Aronoff said enthusiastically. “It’s amazing!”
And apparently that’s become an increasingly common reaction from Center Cuts’ customers, who get to savor what Cohen and Aronoff routinely serve up at their meat counter in Roslyn.