Inside the kitchen of Peter Sanagan, the owner of Sanagan’s Meat Locker

Inside the kitchen of Peter Sanagan, the owner of Sanagan’s Meat Locker

Stocked with a whole chicken, batched cocktails and a collection of vintage cookbooks

Peter Sanagan standing in a blue shirt and jeans in his home kitchen

In 1995, Peter Sanagan, the owner of Sanagan’s Meat Locker, was a few courses away from graduating high school. Then his father moved the family to Hong Kong. “Once I was there, I was exposed to a bustling world of markets and exotic foods. I had a lot of time on my hands, so my mom got me a Cordon Bleu book. That’s when I started teaching myself to cook.”

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After returning to Toronto, Sanagan spent time working at Le Sélect Bistro, Mistura and Auberge du Pommier—but a lengthy apprenticeship in Milan was the most direct precursor to his current gig. “The grocers in Italy knew where their products came from and had advice on how to treat them,” he says. Sanagan suspected there would be a market in Toronto for a butcher shop that took similar pride in sourcing and explaining its wares.

Sanagan's home kitchen, which is done in black and white with colourful cookwear

So in late 2009, when he saw a For Rent sign in the window of a tiny space on Baldwin Street in Kensington Market, Sanagan jumped on it for $1,200 a month, and it became the inaugural location of Sanagan’s Meat Locker. In the summer of 2012, he moved down the road into a much larger space, one that could accommodate the store’s growing roster of grocery items and prepared foods. Since then, he’s opened additional locations in Little India and the Junction.

Sanagan's fridge, filled with veggies, a while chicken and condiments

Despite his growing empire, Sanagan still finds time to cook at home. “My wife, Alia Hussey, is a wonderful cook,” he says. “But, for me, this is where I get to experiment.” His fridge is tightly organized and full of wrapped meat from work, produce (from Fiesta Farms or local Kensington Market shops like Fruit Corner and Caribbean Corner) and a variety of curated sauces and condiments. “Please ignore that giant bottle of ketchup—that belongs to my eight-year-old son, Desmond,” he says. “I prefer hot sauces, like this one from Mados.” He likes spicy condiments that layer on flavour rather than just a burning sensation. “I also use different chili crisps for heat and umami.”

A collection of Sanagan's sauces and condiments

On Saturdays and Sundays, Sanagan does some batch cooking to feed the family throughout the week. “This is a ragu I made for my son’s school lunches. I hide a bunch of vegetables in it by blitzing them in the food processor beforehand. Then I put it all in the slow cooker with tomatoes, pork and beef. Once it’s on top of the Setaro brand pasta that we keep at home, he doesn’t notice the healthy stuff. That’s a big win.”

A ragu stored in a clear litre container

Setero brand pasta sitting beside a tomato sauce

The centrepiece of the fridge is currently a whole chicken. “I’ve sprinkled it with Sanagan’s House Spice Rub. I’ll let the flavours combine for about six hours, and then I’ll roast it for dinner.”

A whole chicken sitting on a shelf in Sanagan's fridge

Sanagan's home collection of rubs

There are a few other meats on the go. “I like to keep some pre-marinated stuff around for quick and easy meals, like this Cuban bavette.”

A sealed plastic bag of Cuban bavette

There are also a few experiments. “This is called uccelli scappati, which translates to ‘escaped bird.’ It’s an Italian dish for unsuccessful hunters. They would take the ingredients they intended to put into the bird they caught—like pork, rosemary, salt and pepper—and then wrap it all in pancetta and skewer it.” Sanagan’s latest version swaps in bacon as the main source of protein.

One of Sanagan's recipe experiments

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For sweeter pursuits, there’s a bottle of Dragon Stout. Hussey uses it when she makes chocolate stout cake.

A bottle of stout on a shelf in the fridge

The rest of the baking ingredients (Mexican vanilla, sprinkles) are stored in the pantry. There’s also a high-end cocoa powder from Fazer. “That was a gift,” says Sanagan. “Recently, we were tidying and accidentally threw out our Fry’s brand cocoa powder. That’s Alia’s favourite”

Sanagan's pantry, which is housed on a few shelves

The rest of Sanagan's pantry shelves

This array of pickled vegetables and nasturtium syrup was a gift from Sanagan’s friends at Black Creek Community Farms. “I’m looking for something fun to make with them.”

Two stacks of jars filled with pickled vegetables

The freezer has a large bag of wrapped game (moose, gifted from a neighbour who hunts) and a healthy collection of garden-picked scotch bonnets. “Alia is Jamaican, and her parents grew a bunch of those peppers. She’ll use them when she makes Caribbean dishes. As you can see, we are also big fans of Jamaican patties.”

A freezer with wrapped bags of meat, peppers and Jamaican patties

Sanagan is in hot pursuit of the best home recipes for pizza and pasta. He uses this pasta maker for the latter. “I’m on a stuffed-pasta bender right now.”

Sanagan's pasta maker

The kitchen decor is distinctly meat inspired. The poster of beef cuts on the fridge is Hussey’s. “When she showed me her apartment for the first time, she had this hanging,” Sanagan says. “I knew it was meant to be.” There’s also a shadow box full of vintage butcher’s knives. “These were gifted to me by various customers over the years. They’re all antiques, so I had them mounted”

A posted of meat cuts that Sanagan's wife had when they met

A shadow box full of vintage butcher's knives

Sanagan has a collection of vintage Time Life cookbooks from the 1970s. They were written by Richard Olney, an American expat who moved to France to study classic culinary technique. “The way he breaks down French methods and introduces these European recipes to his North American audience is fantastic.” Sanagan also has a copy of his own tome, Cooking Meat. “At my store, I love giving customers tips on how to select, cut and cook their meat. This is just a natural extension of that.”

A row of vintage cookbooks from the 1970s

A page from Sanagan's own cookbook, Cooking Meat

“I like classic, spirit-forward cocktails,” says Sanagan. “I often batch my own concoctions too.” Right now, he has two homemade bottles on the go. One is a standard negroni, and the other is a Full Monte, which is made with equal parts Jameson, Amaro Montenegro and red vermouth.

Sanagan's liquor shelf, which has a few bottles of home-batched cocktails