Dan Honig

Dan Honig

The biggest lesson I’ve learned in my career is patience. Often, goals take time, much more time than we expect. Eventually, if you keep working at it, you can accomplish whatever you set out to do. The real hard bit is knowing when something isn’t worth the effort and when it’s smarter to quit and start something new.

Seeing how hard life can be for farmers and the farm animals that feed us keeps me moving in the food industry. I don’t think it needs to be so hard, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that’s what Happy Valley Meat Company is all about.
My time working at Heritage Foods USA had the biggest impact on my career. There, I was able to go visit slaughterhouses and farms to really understand what the meat world looked like. Then after years of selling meat, I opened a butcher shop for them and put all that theoretical knowledge to use. My whole understanding of the meat world started at that job.
The biggest industry shift I have seen over the past couple of years has been that the definition for high-quality has changed, now high-quality means (on top of being delicious), ethical and unique. Diners have come to expect restaurants to do the right thing when it comes to the farmer and animal welfare. While making a tasty dish is still expected, it’s not enough anymore.
The key for chefs who are looking to incorporating seasonal ingredients into their menus is flexibility. The really big players came about because chefs at the time didn’t want to be flexible, so to compete distributors brought products from around the world to cater to a chef’s menu. When sticking to local and seasonal, you lose that wide reach. To really take advantage of the best that local/seasonal has to offer, you need to build your menu, dishes, and staff to be flexible and accommodating.
The best way to work with a local farm or purveyor is to reach out directly and ask them what their growth goals are. Be clear on what you can tolerate vs. what you can’t (e.g., I can’t substitute a different cut of meat every week, it needs to always be the same, but I can add a ground beef dish if it means I can secure my skirt steaks). Visiting the farms you work with is also key to building relationships. We love meeting and showing chefs around Happy Valley Meat Company.
When hiring I look for employees who show hustle, someone who is looking to work, curious, and is not afraid to try new things. I want people who will try and change Happy Valley Meat Company for the better. Some people are content with things being the way that they are and that’s not what I look for.
I find inspiration from speaking to everyone I can about everything I can. Just hearing what other people are doing and figuring out why/how is enough to get my mind wandering. I spend a lot of time reading meat science books and talking to processors and farmers, but my favorite kind of learning is hands-on, actually making a product and fixing any bugs in it.
I couldn’t do this job without a great team. The team is what makes everything run at Happy Valley Meat Company, without them, nothing would get done.

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