It’s not unusual for butchers to have a loyal following, but few are quite as beloved as industry darling Gary McBean, who’s won over everyone from home cooks to professional chefs for his pioneering approach to butchery. Melbourne favourites including Attica, Ruben's Deli and Hector’s Deli source meat from McBean.
Brought up in butcher shops from the tender age of nine, McBean learnt the ropes from his father, Ken McBean, (himself the son of a butcher’s son), who started his career in the former meat hall at Prahran Market and later opened his own butcheries – first in Richmond and, eventually, back at the market.
“He would take me to work on Saturday morning,” Gary tells Broadsheet. “We had sawdust on the floor and you had to rake it into a pile and collect [fallen] bits of meat. That was my first job.”
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A legacy butcher, Gary quickly worked his way up the ranks, becoming an apprentice at 15 before taking over his father’s Richmond shop. Then, in 1984, he joined his father at Prahran Market, opening Gary’s Meats just down the hall from McBean Family Butcher.
When the market was redeveloped a few years later, he moved to a lot at the end of the hall – but, as of last month, Gary has reclaimed his original location and opened G McBean Family Butcher.
He’s joined by his daughter Ash McBean, a former touring basketball player who’s since decided to join the family business, benefitting from the lessons of her father’s upbringing. “I was brought up to butcher properly,” says Gary. “I taught her everything. She virtually runs the shop for me.”
The space has come a long way from sawdust and meat scraps. The fit-out – by designer Wendy Bergman of Bergman & Co (The Orrong Hotel, Chancery Lane, Studio Amaro) – features elegant terrazzo floors, deep-green tiles and gold accents .
Wraparound counters display a wide range of proteins, from truffled wild boar salami to house-made pancetta and chorizo, crown roast made with South Australian saltbush lamb, and dry-aged tomahawk steak.
“We were one of the first butchers to put in a huge dry-aging cabinet, about 12 years ago,” says McBean. At the new location, a special dry-aging permit allows him to age the meat for up to six weeks.
There are also several cook-at-home items, including lasagne, bolognaise, goulash and beef Wellington. They’re all made on-site in a purpose-built production facility, something Gary was eager to introduce in the new location.
“We were really busy in the other shop, and I wanted to expand. I wanted a smoker. I wanted to do take-home meals,” he says. “The fact that we can now do it all in-house is so good.”
And, Friday through Sunday, the shop is slinging Baker Bleu rolls stuffed with rotisserie-cooked porchetta or specials like pulled lamb shoulder and Wagyu brisket. Come December, the team will introduce smoked glazed ham sandwiches served on a mustard-basted croissant.
Next year, Gary wants to kick off in-house steak nights with paired wines and live demonstrations of little-known butcher cuts. He’s also planning to bring back intimate hands-on butchery classes, by popular demand.
G McBean Family Butcher
Prahran Market, stall 501, 163 Commercial Road, South Yarra
(03) 9826 0815
Tue & Thu to Sat 7am–5pm
Sun 10am– 3pm