El Gaucho Beef: A Legacy of Quality

Did you know that the most elite, sought-after Angus beef came about through the vision of our founder and owner, Paul Mackay? Since the beginning, we wanted to offer our guests something so exclusive that they would be hard-pressed to find anything like it anywhere in the world. That still holds true today.  

The Evolution of a Brand  

It started with a cigar and a casual chat one evening in Whistler, B.C. Two men, though different in their chosen career paths, shared a common vision on how to set themselves apart from competitors: Quality. 

Those men were Paul Mackay, who, just four years earlier, opened El Gaucho Seattle in the model of its iconic namesake, and John Tarpoff, now the Director of Beef Products for Niman Ranch, but at the time was a meat packer from Rapid City, S.D., who was producing beef that was far exceeding the quality measures in place for both the Certified Angus Beef® brand and USDA Prime. 

USDA Prime requires a significant amount of marbling (those white flecks within the red meat). Those flecks melt upon cooking, resulting in a juicy, flavorful eating experience. Certified Angus Beef must meet 10 quality standards, including having a high degree of marbling to qualify for the brand. But what about beef that hit both the Certified Angus Beef requirements plus the marbling to qualify for Prime? 

There was no consistent way to procure this at the time so Mackay and Tarpoff struck up an agreement: Tarpoff would supply Mackay with only beef that qualified for the Certified Angus Beef ® brand and USDA Prime, and Mackay would pay a premium for it and create a custom 28-day dry aging process to delight guests with this incredible steak.   

The product was such a success that it spurred a revolution. After Mackay and Tarpoff launched their experiment, the brand officially unveiled “Certified Angus Beef ® brand Prime.” Soon after, Gaucho would be joined by a few others in an elite group of restaurants offering the top 1.5 percent of all beef – Certified Angus Beef® brand Prime. 

The Role of Niman Ranch 

There is also an art to producing a high-quality steak. This is what sets a great steak apart from the sublime. 

Now at Niman Ranch, John Tarpoff employs both art and science to create all-natural, impeccably pedigreed beef that El Gaucho proudly serves its customers. It is this attention to detail and unstinting search for perfection that makes Niman Ranch a trusted El Gaucho partner. 

“There is no other program like this,” says Chad Mackay, President and COO at El Gaucho. They have a laser focus on quality.” 

Tarpoff has labored to fine-tune the operations at Niman Ranch, where he oversees 115 family ranches. He and his staff watch, advise and work closely with ranchers who adhere to an 18-page animal care protocol that helps yield the country’s tastiest steaks. 

Niman Ranch is a leader in sustainable farming practices and a network of 700 family farms that produce an array of all-natural, high quality beef, lamb, and pork products. 

When Tarpoff arrived at Niman Ranch nearly a decade ago, he was given carte blanche to make changes to the beef program to perfect the final product. “I had the genetics and nutrition down,” he says. “But there was still something missing.” A closer look at animal husbandry was called for, and this is where the art entered the equation. Tarpoff was convinced that a peaceful and low-stress lifestyle for cattle was the key to better beef. 

As Tarpoff began digging deeper into husbandry practices and teasing out what would best serve the animals, the world-renowned Temple Grandin, a Doctor of Animal Science, approached him and offered her expertise. Together, they refined his already high-quality care by working to create a healthy, low-stress and clean environment for the cattle. Keeping animals comfortable and their daily life relatively peaceful, translates to more tender meat. His collaboration with Grandin inspired Tarpoff to rewrite the Niman Ranch protocols, which now consist of 18-pages of detailed instructions on how to feed, house, and care for their cattle. 

As you can see, there is both an art and a science to producing a high-quality steak. We are in good company, thanks to our partners at Certified Angus Beef brand and the generations of farmers and ranchers who are dedicated to raising the best Angus beef. With the addition of Niman Ranch, El Gaucho guests are truly receiving the highest quality steak available today. Yes, spelling out that we serve Niman Ranch All-Natural Certified Angus Beef® brand prime steaks and chops, 28-day dry aged and grilled over charcoal is a mouthful. Indeed – a very tasty one!