Kirk Halpern is not only a veteran of the food industry, but a master of logistics.
On a recent weekday, the Sandy Springs resident was detailing the latest delivery for his company Farmers & Fishermen Purveyors, a supplier of premium steaks, seafood and other proteins.
“I have bronzini (a farm-raised fish) swimming in the waters in Turkey on Saturday,” Kirk said. “It gets delivered to me on Monday.”
He explained how the fish was put at the bottom of a jet traveling directly from Istanbul to Atlanta, and then soon after, in the hands of his customers.
“So literally today people are getting bronzini that was halfway around the world three days ago,” he said. “That’s the business. The business is how do we bend the curve so that we get fresher and better products to our customers?”
Certainly not a conversation you would have with just anyone. But Kirk has spent nearly his entire life immersed in the food distribution business.
His most recent venture is Farmers & Fishermen, which he started in 2019 with his son, Ben, a graduate of Riverwood International Charter School.
Initially, the company sold directly to restaurants, including some of Atlanta’s finest establishments such as Aria, Atlas and The Chastain.
But when the pandemic hit, Kirk quickly pivoted to add home delivery, allowing him to sell directly to customers.
“I had no firings, no furloughs, no reduction in pay or benefits,” he said of his employees. “Then, as we grew through COVID, I hired my employee partners’ spouses, kids, nephews, and I built a heck of a business.”
The offerings from Farmers & Fishermen include a variety of high-end meats, such as Westholme wagyu beef, New Zealand lamb racks and venison ribs. The seafood includes Chilean salmon, Arctic char, sea bass, black grouper, lobster, crab, caviar and more. There are also ready-to-heat meals, biscuits, pastas, savory pies, desserts and sauces.
Kirk said he thoroughly enjoys the relationships he’s built with smaller farmers and fishermen and how he’s been able to connect them to the restaurant community.
“When you are really big, you have to have your upstream partners be really big, too,” he said. But at Farmers & Fishermen, he can work with that smaller producer who may not have the geographic reach or wherewithal to get their product out into the market.
“I want to support the small guy,” Kirk said. “I’m able to effectively bring those small farmers’ products to the marketplace, and then deliver to the chef, great tasting products at a fair price but from someone small.”
Kirk grew up in the food business. His grandfather was a produce purveyor, who “actually invented [selling] strawberries in pints and flats and potatoes in cardboard boxes,” Kirk said.
His father, Howard Halpern, was the founder of Buckhead Beef. Kirk went to work for him after a brief stint as lawyer. In 1999, the family sold Buckhead Beef to food distribution giant Sysco Corp.
In 2005, Kirk started another food business, Halperns’ Steak and Seafood, alongside his dad. It grew into a leading Atlanta meat and seafood company, and in 2015, was sold to Gordon Food Service.
It may seem as though the family has a bit of a golden touch. But Kirk said, “We work really, really hard. We are only as good as our last delivery.”
Now, Halpern looks to pass on Farmers & Fishermen to his son, Ben.
“This is a generational company,” Halpern said. “I started it when I was 55. I had a 15-year plan. Five years of [being] really tough on my son … And then, the last five years, if he’s earned it, I work for him.”
For more information, visit farmersandfishermen.com.
Smoked Westholme Wagyu Tri-Tip
(Recipe from Farmers & Fishermen)
- Trim – Using a sharp knife, trim off the silver skin and fat pockets. Each cut is unique and it’s common for certain cuts to have a thicker sinewy layer of fat on the base (or thicker side). To that end, we recommend removing that as it won’t render as well when cooking, providing a chewier texture.
- Season – A light coating of yellow mustard or oil will help the rub to stick. Then apply your favorite dry rub. One of our favorites is a simple ratio of one part kosher salt, one part ground black pepper, one part spices (granulated garlic, paprika, dark chili powder, and frankly, whatever you like).
- Smoke – Smoke at 225° F. Fruit wood is great, or oak because it cooks so quickly. Smoked tri tip temp is ideal when the thickest part of the meat is registering at approximately 125°F with an instant-read digital thermometer. 135°F for medium rare. Keep an eye on your temperature and make sure to pull it at the appropriate temperature.
- Rest – After you hit your target temperature, wrap in foil or butcher paper and allow your delicious smelling smoked meat to rest for at least 15 minutes. Then remove the foil, sprinkle with salt flakes or coarse salt and slice.
- Slice – Finally, slice thin on a bias by cutting against the grain – the grain on the Tri Tip runs away from the curvature drawn between the two points and toward what’s referred to as the ‘elbow’ – and enjoy!