Steve Furgiuele, the salumi artisan behind Fuge Fine Meat, is on a one-man mission to start a charcuterie renaissance in Edmonton. To do that, though, Fuge, as he is called, needs $20,000 to purchase a charcuterie specific cooling chamber. With less than two weeks remaining, his Alberta BoostR campaign is nearing 80 per cent fulfilled.
I sit across from Steve at a café in Edmonton’s Little Italy listening to him tell stories of his childhood. He has a deep, booming voice, an enviable amount of thick hair, and an accent that broadens when he talks of zios and zias and three-hour meals of pasta, wine, and cured meats.
It was alongside his father, Franco Furgiuele, in their Sault Ste. Marie home, where young Fuge learned how to make wine and sausage. The pride of preserving his family’s culinary traditions is obvious in his voice—even when he recalls those times telling friends he couldn’t play street hockey because he was busy “doin’ tomatoes!”
Food and family are the pillars of life to this young man, who stays in daily contact with his parents, even if it’s to talk about what they had for supper. He describes himself as cheesy, and an “Italian ham”. He calls his mother Principessa—that alone makes me want to throw fistfuls of cash towards his cause. Not only does he have the heart of a lion, but I know first-hand that this guy makes incredible salumi (the Italian term for cured and smoked meats; charcuterie, the French term).
In 2012, Steve left Sault Ste. Marie for Edmonton and secured a chef position at Culina Millcreek. Working with chef owner, Brad Lazarenko, was a life-changing experience.
“He became my friend and mentor,” says Furgiuele. “He taught me to let things happen organically and that a good product will always hold up; you don’t have to rush things.”
Lazarenko encouraged the young salumist to perfect his craft, and when Culina closed in 2016, Furgiuele dedicated his time to solely concentrate on furthering Fuge Fine Meats. People knew a good thing when they tasted it and Fuge products began to slowly appear on menus and in stores around the city. Currently, Fuge meats are available at Ocean Odyssey Inland, Boulangerie Bonjour, and Culina at the Muttart for retail purchase. The products are served at Sugarbowl, Pourhouse Bistro & Taproom, Culina Muttart, and the Dogwood Cafés at both the Victoria and Riverside golf courses. Otto, a new sausage and beer restaurant, exclusively serves Fuge product. In fact, an order for 1,000 pounds of sausage just landed on Fuge’s desk this morning.
Making sausage is one thing; curing whole muscle cuts is a different story. Salumi like lonza, speck and coppa need to hang for months; prosciutto needs to hang for years.
The dollar investment in the meat is substantial, and it’s an investment that one wouldn’t want to ruin. Fuge sources his pork from some of the best producers in the province: Berkshire from Irvings Farm Fresh; a Duroc/Berkshire/Landrace cross from Bear and the Flower, and the rare Mangalitsa from Country Accent near Bawlf. Fuge has been making do with modified and borrowed equipment, but to make charcuterie for the masses, he needs specific, expensive gear.
Those fortunate enough to taste charcuterie made by Fuge understand the importance of him obtaining this equipment. His product is incomparable. His passion for the craft is limitless, and he is known to exhaustively research and test recipes to a fault because, in the back of his mind, there’s a voice that asks, “Would Franco approve?”
The first time Franco Furgiuele gave his blessing was a day Steve will never forget. It happened over a fennel-laced Italian sausage called finocchiona. “I learned everything from my dad, so when he told me I did a really good job and he was proud of me, I thought, wow, this is it; I did it!”
Beneath that brawn and that beard, the little Italian kid from the Sault still exists. “I’m an emotional guy,” he admits. “I just want to make good stuff and see people enjoy it. That’s what makes me happy. If you eat my product and go ‘Holy shit!’, I go home and tell my wife, I call my mom! It’s very simple.”
Preserving culinary traditions should be a simple thing, si? The Alberta BoostR campaign for Fuge Fine Meat ends at 11:59 p.m. MDT on January 29.