Ambush: Juan Carrera
Welcome to my first Meat Cutter’s Ambush! Basically, I show up unannounced at various stores, cruise on in with notebook and camera in hand, seek out the meat cutter, and keep my fingers crossed that he/she will give the weirdo just a few minutes of their time. So far, so good, although I’ve only ambushed one so far. So, meat cutters, if you see me coming, pretty please be nice???
My partner in crime & I walk up to the meat counter and notice a fella wearing a Pederson’s cap. Hey, that’s perfect, right? He should be receptive to us. We introduce ourselves and ask if he has a moment to chat. He agrees. We ask him his name, and this is literally his answer: “Juan, and you’re not gonna believe this, but my last name is Carrera like the Porsche. I’m Italian and Jewish” as he thumbs his nose at me and whispers with a grin, “I’ve got the Italian nose.” Mmmmkay. I already love this guy.
We find out he started in the produce section, but “the money was in the meat market.” He’s been meat cutting for 35 years now. And, in fact, he was cutting meat in that very same building 25 years ago when it was a Tom Thumb. Now, he’s here cutting meat for Whole Foods, and he quite adores the job. “I’ll retire from here,” he tells us proudly.
We’re rolling through the questions pretty quickly now. I snap a photo. I can tell he’s feeling like he needs to get back behind the counter. My partner asks him, “what’s the best part of your job?”
Without hesitation, Juan says, “My customers. I’ve known some of them for over 20 years. I know them by name. I had one of my customers come in the other day, and she said, ‘Juan, how long have we known each other?’ And I said, well, how old is your son? She said, ’20.’ Then about 21 years because I met you when you were pregnant.”
And, then, completely unprovoked, he says, “do you know what the worst part of my job is?”
“Losing my customers. I seen people die.” His eyes fill with tears, and he shifts uncomfortably. Back to work he goes. And, very abruptly, that is the end of our conversation.
Whole Foods | Arlington, TX
YEARS IN MEAT CUTTING: 35
WHAT I LOVE MOST ABOUT JUAN: His vulnerability