Swinery reopens: Proprietor acknowledges problems, looks ahead

(Editor’s note: We weren’t planning an extensive preview of the Swinery’s reopening. But the story of its proprietor acknowledging problems is a compelling one, and the interview yielded details of future plans as well. Yes, the story’s long – longer than Christopher’s much-read July Swinery preview – so if you are interested, note it’ll take a while.)

Story and photos by Christopher Boffoli
Reporting for West Seattle Blog

Bacon lovers will rejoice when the Swinery re-opens its doors for regular business hours today for the first time in several weeks.

The deli and butcher shop closed in February after owner Gabriel Claycamp announced on his website that the business had no choice but to close in order to complete ongoing renovations in their new West Seattle commercial kitchen at 3207 California. However, Swinery insiders came forward to say that there was more to the story. They alleged that management problems ultimately prevented the Swinery from paying vendors and employees, and that a lack of profitability forced the owners to suspend their operations.

We followed up with Claycamp to talk about that – some of the challenges his business has faced since opening last September – and to talk about some of the changes that customers can expect from the relaunched shop, including hamburgers and duck fat potatoes from the new walk-up window, tubs of bacon-chocolate chip cookie dough, and more of the celebrated artisan bacon, which will soon be sold nationwide.

As the Swinery re-opens, Claycamp seems surprisingly centered. “Actually, I feel good right now,” he says. “This has all been an incredible learning experience with all of the ups and downs and I’ve seen how fast you can lose everything doing this.”

When asked which of the aforementioned reasons for the Swinery’s shutdown were true, he says, “All of the above.”

The five months of the Swinery’s initial operation was perhaps a case study in how a small business can quickly capsize from variables related to the mysterious alchemy of customer demand, overstaffing, mission creep, and some of the unique challenges posed by an endeavor to support local, sustainably-sourced products — for sale at premium prices — during the waning days of a deep recession.

The Swinery also was burdened in some ways by the collapse of Claycamp’s previous business venture, the Culinary Communion, which he founded in a house near Morgan Junction in 2002. But above all, the most significant troubles seemed to begin and end with issues related to construction. As Claycamp describes it, the renovation of the building itself presented many unforeseen challenges that weighed heavily on the budget. “Of the $350,000 in start-up capital we budgeted for the business, about $275,000 of that was consumed by issues related to the building renovations.”

When we last interviewed Claycamp in July 2009, he was working amidst a mountain of rubble and dust, in the process of transforming the space (formerly a dog-grooming salon) into a facility that was suitable for the preparation and sale of food. The building had originally begun as multiple structures which were connected haphazardly through the years, sometimes, he said, without permits. It looked like it. The interior was an odd warren of small rooms of varying size, much of which looked old, unevenly built and in need of attention.

During the initial planning, Claycamp seemed excited about the building’s potential. But as demolition began to open up walls, surprises began to emerge. “The walls weren’t even framed with two-by-fours,” he says, “It was just odd pieces of wood with sheathing holding it all together. There wasn’t even any insulation. We found newspaper stuffed in to the walls in a lot of places. Usually, after we tore open a wall we instantly regretted it.”

Claycamp says that his team not only had to renovate the building to suit the needs of their new venture, but that the process of construction by its nature attracts the attention and involvement of building inspectors, some of whom may not have looked more closely at the building in decades. So the new occupants became responsible for correcting all of the issues that had to be brought up to code.

For instance, Claycamp said that the building actually had two separate electrical services, one in the front and one in the back. “No one could find any permits after the 1950’s that showed when the front and back buildings were connected and made into one. So the back and front each had their own separate service and apparently no one ever noticed because, as far as the City was concerned, the property had two addresses.” Apparently, two different meter readers visited the property independently for fifty years and no one ever figured it out. “Having one building with two separate electrical services is actually illegal,” he says, “So we had to take care of that.” But that created new problems. When a new electrical service was installed on the north side of the building, owners of a neighboring property filed a complaint with the DPD when they noted that the new electrical panel did not have the technically-required three feet of clearance from their property.

There was also the sudden, unexpected death of their electrical contractor which halted work in their new commercial kitchen just as their access to their old kitchen, downtown at 4th and Main, was ending.


Claycamp now says that the downtown kitchen was a mistake in itself. “I have no idea why we opened that downtown walk-up window.” The space had formerly been used as a retail walk-up window and commercial kitchen for Josh Henderson’s Skillet street-food operation. When Henderson vacated the space, Claycamp and his team moved in and opened with a breakfast and lunch service, as well as expanded hours on game days which they hoped would take advantage of the location’s close proximity to the downtown stadiums. But after inconsistent customer response, they first reduced their hours and subsequently announced that they would be closing to refocus on the main Swinery operation in West Seattle. However, that location continued to serve as the operation’s commercial kitchen after the Swinery decamped from its previous rented kitchen in West Seattle’s Triangle neighborhood.

Claycamp contends that the landlord of the previous West Seattle kitchen space grew disenchanted with his team principally through an incident involving some ducks.

“We had ordered ten ducks from a purveyor in Duvall. But there was a mix-up and the farmer delivered them live. I got a call from my guys at the kitchen who said the ducks had arrived and were still quacking. I thought they meant they were just really fresh. Needless to say, the landlord wasn’t too happy to show up and discover ten live ducks in his kitchen. We had to leave after that.” Claycamp says that the farmer offered to dispatch the ducks right there in the parking lot. But lacking the hot-wax-dipping machine necessary for removing the feathers, they declined. “As soon as my kids saw them that was the end of it. So we brought them back to Vachon, put them in the back yard and were going to let the kids keep them as pets. But we came out the next morning and they were gone.” The ducks had apparently decided that the nearby country club was a more comfortable place to live. “We never did get those ducks back.”

The downtown kitchen continued to serve as much-needed space for the Swinery’s butchering operation. But as much as it was an essential resource, the arrangement was less than ideal. For starters, the location was in real estate limbo with developers planning to eventually demolish the building to replace it with a high rise. When that would actually occur remained to be seen. But the logistics of processing meat downtown and running back and forth to make deliveries in West Seattle meant that customers often would have to special order items for pick-up at a later date. It also presented challenges to the Swinery staff, in terms of inventory management, versus the ease of simply going into a kitchen at the back of the store and restocking. The Swinery had always planned to have its entire operation under one roof. But the unforeseen construction expenses with the initial build-out, and lower revenue than expected in the first few months of operation, meant that they had to shelve plans for subsequent phases of construction at 3207 California until now. Pending completion of the electrical work and the new walk-in coolers out back, and final plumbing inspections and permits, the Swinery (which writes about that situation here) will finally have its entire operation under one roof in West Seattle.


With all of the significant challenges of construction finally behind him, the reopened Swinery will also benefit from the lessons learned in the initial five months of operation. Claycamp admits that significant mistakes were made and that he has written a new business plan that takes advantage of variables, such as consumer demand, that were previously a challenge to quantify.

“We really didn’t know what we were doing in the beginning. We were getting whole sides of beef and we didn’t have the facilities or the meat rails that we needed. And frankly we didn’t have the experience. The amount of financial resources was huge. Each cow was $2,500 and we were plunking down all of this money without knowing what the real demand would be. Let’s be honest, we were chefs posing as butchers.” Claycamp says that it was taking his team up to 26 hours to do a whole beef breakdown whereas a professional butcher, with only one man working, could do the same work in two hours.

He also notes that butchered meat wasn’t even on his original business plan, just charcuterie (cured meats). But somewhere along the line he came up with the idea to offer sustainable meats from small family farms, all within 300 miles of Seattle. Claycamp says that he initially developed direct relationships with purveyors. But that resulted in costs that were too high for him to be able to make a profit. The Swinery now buys its meats from a cooperative which collectively sources sustainable meat from local farmers.

Claycamp says he also faced challenges with consumer expectations, balancing his goal of breaking down whole animals with the desire of customers who sought only the “Hollywood” cuts of meat. A whole animal would only produce so many top sirloin steaks, for instance, and then the Swinery would have to find creative ways to sell the remainder of the cow, often the unfamiliar cuts, while making customers wait until the next cycle to get the specific cuts they wanted. This made meat deliveries inconsistent, confusing customers who could walk into a local supermarket and purchase the cuts of meat they wanted, at lower prices, anytime they wanted to.

It also added considerably to the Swinery’s labor costs. When a roast would go unsold after a couple of days, the staff would re-package it as a marinated roast. If it did not sell after two more days, it would be re-cut for kebobs or used in beef stew. “Each time an employee had to do that it just added to the labor costs,” he says. Ultimately the Swinery was forced to amend its strategy from buying whole beef to buying “boxed” beef, with as many of the popular cuts as they needed. And Claycamp has reduced his 11-person labor force, realizing now that the huge team he assembled to run the Swinery, including lauded chef Brian O’Connor (now at Kevin Davis’ new restaurant Blueacre downtown at 7th and Olive) was more than he needed and contributed to a large portion of his business costs. “Now we’ve just got a couple people for the front of the house, a couple of people in the back and a person to do the books. That’s it.”


Claycamp acknowledges that he had some problems keeping up to date with his purveyors, but that he has worked out payment plans with them, many of whom will continue to provide the Swinery with meats. He says he will continue to stock his previous product lines but with some new enhancements. Thundering Hooves of Walla Walla (still, at 296 miles, within his goal of 300 miles for sourcing) will provide regular beef as well as dry-aged. The Swinery previously dry-aged beef and will continue to do so with primal cuts. But Claycamp explains that receiving seven-day-dry-aged beef will help with consistency. “In the past we had various cuts of beef that were dry aging for different lengths of time. And the beef loses volume as it ages which resulted in really odd amounts of loss that were impossible for us to calculate. So this will help us make the process more reliable.” Along with local chickens, ducks, and squabs, the Swinery will now be offering rabbits as well.

But the Swinery is perhaps best known for its pork, the basis for its bacon and house-made charcuterie, sourced from a small family farm in Port Orchard. And Claycamp is excited about a new development at the pig farm: The farmer will be eliminating all soy and corn from the pig feed and will be finishing them with hazelnuts. Some of the best hams in the world are produced in Spain, where the pigs eat diets of mostly acorns; this imparts a delicious, nutty flavor. Claycamp says he is anxious to see how the hazelnuts will enhance the flavors of his pork.

The Swinery will no doubt be using a lot of that pork as it ramps up production of its popular artisan bacon. Claycamp has announced that his bacon will soon be sold nationwide via mail order, in 1,000 markets, through Foodzie.com. He will also be selling a new bacon product: Tubs of bacon-chocolate-chip cookie dough.

Customers familiar with the Swinery may notice some physical changes to the shop too. The menu chalkboards have been moved, and a new hanging rack for charcuterie, made of a metal ladder recycled from a firehouse, is now hanging from the ceiling behind the deli cases. Colorful new shelving will feature new products, including more dry goods and cookbooks. And a recipe kiosk at the back of the shop will offer ideas, while at the same time the Swinery will be offering herb bundles and cut vegetables along with their meats.

Claycamp says he has not completely abandoned his plans to offer duck-fat or bacon-fat popcorn (which he told us about last year). But he has had issues with where he’d put a popcorn machine in the small shop. He also says he is continuing to look at participation with the West Seattle Farmers Market, though there are still issues with available space and the cost of the necessary portable mechanical refrigeration.


One of the biggest new developments at the Swinery will be the opening of the long-promised walk-up window. Claycamp says he plans to offer items like $5 Swinery burgers and smoked beef ribs, right off the barbecue. The menu will be an abbreviated version of the downtown walkup menu. The plan is for it to initially be for lunch only, starting in about two weeks. But Claycamp soon hopes to expand to breakfast items, perhaps engaging the local high-school audience, and then later hours at night. In addition, he says the Swinery will expand its evening hours and offering to-go dinner options, such as whole roasted chickens, smoked pork loin, as well as sides like roasted duck-fat potatoes. He says prices on prepared foods will be lower across the board than they were in the past.

Also returning soon will be the Swinery’s chicken-liver paté, removed over the winter in response to complaints by the Health inspector. Though Claycamp was adamant in our interview last summer that his issues with Health Department compliance were behind him, he says that he has continued to navigate the sometimes tricky waters of government compliance, which he claims has less to do with actual food safety issues in his kitchens and more to do with what he views as sometimes seemingly arbitrary categories and rules.

Claycamp explains: “The issue with King County Public Health (KCPH) had to do with glass jars. The way we packed the chicken liver pate was that we put it in glass jars when it was cold and it went right into the fridge. But according to King County, anything that is in glass jars is automatically considered canning and they don’t regulate that. They sent us to the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA). But the WSDA said we’re not canning because we’re not vacuum packing with a hot seal. It is just basically cold packed and put in the fridge. They didn’t want anything to do with it and sent us back to KCPH. Personally, I don’t see a big difference between a glass jar and a plastic jar sitting side by side in the fridge. But that’s KCPH’s rule, so I’m caving and I’ll just get the plastic jars.”

King County Public Health was not able to comment on the specifics of this case by late Wednesday. However, Public Information Officer Hilary Karasz told me generally that the overall goal for the 10,000 restaurants regulated by KCPH is “to make the food more safe.” Karasz says that they often work closely with restaurants and food producers to develop HACCP plans, which are basically safe food handling plans for specialty products whose production deviates from standard practices.

She acknowledged that KCPH inspectors have occasionally been challenged with a bit of a learning curve, especially with newer procedures, such as sous vide cooking (a method of cooking food at low temperatures in a water bath which originated in France), especially when those procedures are not widely employed throughout King County. Claycamp says that he has been working tirelessly with KCPH on an overall HACCP plan which will address all of his products which require special preparations. He says the iterative process has been extremely detailed and has seen many versions. “There have been a lot of commas to correct and sometimes we’ve had to amend single words. But I think we’re finally there.”

Lastly, cooking classes will soon be returning to the Swinery, reflecting Claycamp’s talent as a teaching chef and the referencing the classes he offered for seven years with one of his previous businesses, the Culinary Communion. The new classes will be smaller and the schedule simpler than the extensive roster he offered in the past. Though he seems excited about the prospect of having students again, the mention of his previous venture seems to conjure for Claycamp memories of the difficulties associated with it, some of which spilled over and burdened the Swinery.


He says he was and is still committed to making good on obligations to those people who were owed refunds when Culinary Communion closed. Many have taken advantage of credits offered for Swinery products in lieu of cash refunds, he says. “There are still some contractors and investors from the CC who remain unpaid,” he says, “Legally we don’t have to pay those guys at this point but they are friends and I want to make sure they are paid off. With individual students, most of them should be square at this point. A few of them have chosen to not come in yet. But if they know how to get squared up when they want to.” Claycamp says that he feels good about resolving the situation with the students who were owed refunds, but that it was hard on the new business to do so. At a time when any nascent business would be struggling to grow in its initial months, he says, the Swinery was sometimes seeing thousands of dollars in product each week go toward servicing its past obligation to students.

Credit-card-processor issues caused more severe problems.

Claycamp says that when the closure of the Culinary Communion was announced, many students who learned they would not be getting refunds had their credit-card processors issue chargebacks on their accounts. But the chargebacks had not been settled by the time they vacated the space and moved the family to Vashon Island. The utilities were shut off and the bank accounts were closed. So the bank automatically put Claycamp on a “black list” shared by credit card processors.

“The only way we could get credit card processing for the Swinery was to go back to the original credit card processor and agree to a plan in which they would take 15% commission on every dollar for a full year. And we’ve been required to do this past the point at which we’ve paid off what we owe them. We paid them off in December but we’ve got another nine months of this,” Claycamp says, adding that at one point the Swinery toyed with the idea of going to a cash-only system. They posted an item on their blog to solicit feedback from customers. But then they learned that the contract with the credit card processor prohibits them from going cash-only. So 15% of all charges will continue to be collected into a reserve fund until it is ultimately refunded.


Despite the roller-coaster ride, Claycamp still maintains his optimism that the most difficult challenges are behind him. He is especially happy with the newly renovated building and the white, gleaming new kitchen that is a result of all of the headaches.

“I still feel good about the location. Sure, there is the challenge of us not being in one of the junctions. We’re sort of inbetween. But the customer traffic has been strong and the people coming in have been enthusiastic. Now it’s finally all back online. I feel good.”

164 Replies to "Swinery reopens: Proprietor acknowledges problems, looks ahead"

  • HelperMonkey April 1, 2010 (9:29 am)

    Nice article, Christopher!

  • Carson April 1, 2010 (9:32 am)

    Interesting, and long story. Who owns the building and are they not partly responsible for the past “miss-deeds” of the building and lack of proper build-ups and permits? Either way, I look forward to the walk up window opening. We have bought meat from Thundering Hoofs in the past, all very good quality.

  • D April 1, 2010 (10:16 am)

    What a mess. I hope WSB is finished providing a podium for this guy. There are a lot of other good businesses struggling out there – businesses that do pay their debts, do have a focused mission, and don’t whine about silly little details like health codes. I’ll patronize those businesses instead.

  • Kate K April 1, 2010 (10:37 am)

    Interesting story of the trials and tribulations of starting a business. It’s the unforeseen stuff that gets you.

    Open up a wall and then *you* are responsible for the last 50 years of what’s wrong in there. I can relate after renovating a 100 year old building – lots of surprises, most of them not pleasant ones!

  • Diana April 1, 2010 (10:39 am)

    Right on “D” I second your comments!

  • Lynne April 1, 2010 (10:48 am)

    Christopher, it’s me again. I’m the one who made comments you deemed “reprehensible” when the shut down was announced a few months back. You provide great details here that fully support my comments, actually. What’s not to understand about me being weary about buying butchered meat from a non-butcher working out of a shut down kitchen who has a history of non compliance who admits he didn’t know what he was doing? Feed my child that meat? I couldn’t. I know, more bacon for everyone else! My sincere good luck to them and you.

  • Wallflower April 1, 2010 (10:59 am)

    Yeah, great article, Christopher. These are strange, difficult times to be sure. It’s interesting to get an inside look at what can go wrong so quickly. Makes me want to support the guy more than I have in the past. I’ll bring cash.
    And D, you come off like a spurned lover. Health codes, silly as they are at times, are things you can’t get around. By law. Good luck patronizing only businesses that have never paid a bill late. And are you going to ask for a printed copy of a “mission” before you slap your Mastercard down, making sure it’s nice and focused? I think you’re protesting a bit much (and people are starting to talk).

  • KN April 1, 2010 (11:15 am)

    Completely agree with D and others. A good friend of mine is one of the students from CC. Not only was there never a mention of a credit back, but he had to hunt these folks down for a refund (over a several month period). My friend was pissed– as he should be. And on top of that, there was some sort of limit on how they could get it (something like “no more than $50 a month please.”) Wrong, wrong, wrong. Why on earth would I want to support a business who cares so little about their customers? What a mess is right!!! No thanks. There are far too many good struggling businesses with owners ehwho care about their customers. Lynne’s comments hit the nail on the head. Enough already.

  • Kayleigh April 1, 2010 (11:20 am)

    Everything about this is weird, from the huge amount of text the Swinery gets, the persistent mistakes and issues of the owners, the aggressive defensiveness of the supporters. I don’t see this happening with any other local businesses, though I’m sure all businesses have their struggles.
    Just weird, is all.

  • Mr. E. Meat April 1, 2010 (11:26 am)

    I hope you are on this guys payroll or at least getting free meat. You and Limoncello need to find a new ass to kiss… Gabes is smoked. It seems the majority of the food community in Seattle has finally given up on him. Listening to this guy whine about fairly simple and necessary stuff we all have to do is exhuasting. I hope this guy never has to apply for a liquor license. The Internet would explode with this morons whining. Jeez.

  • Lauren April 1, 2010 (11:29 am)

    Actually, I agree with D and Lynne. There are so many other local businesses that could benefit from the attention that has been lavished on the Swinery. That’s what bothers me. I hope Claycamp can make a success of the Swinery, he’s certainly been given enough opportunity.

    • WSB April 1, 2010 (11:47 am)

      Just a data point re: other businesses:
      We’re not the only people who’ve written about this guy and this is two articles in 8 months. I’m done with him, personally, and if this hadn’t included the angle of “he confirms he’s screwed up,” I wouldn’t have run it – but I think that is important for people to hear.
      But please browse our businesses category and note we’ve written about a ton of other businesses too. It’s something we’re particularly proud of.
      (That category doesn’t include most of our restaurant coverage – we try to avoid overtagging things.)
      We also offer free listings for business sales and free job listings in the Forum, calendar listings for business and other events, have led two free social-media seminars for local businesses, assembled the first Twitter list of local businesses (which anyone can add to their Twitter account)
      and we try as hard as we can to be a place for the business community to get the word out, in addition to covering all the other news of the day (and beyond). We try to do a better job every day than the last, and that’s not always easy, but we do try.

  • Kevin April 1, 2010 (11:29 am)

    Great story Christopher! While most WSB news stories are fairly short, these magazine style, in depth articles are a welcome treat! I hope the WSB features more of these stories.

  • J April 1, 2010 (11:34 am)

    “Swinery insiders came forward to say that there was more to the story. They alleged that management problems ultimately prevented the Swinery from paying vendors and employees, and that a lack of profitability forced the owners to suspend their operations.”

    This is 100% correct. Maybe I should rephrase…This was what we as employees were told and I have text messages from Gabe to prove this. It also mentions that he’d have to close shop and sell equipment off to pay all debts. Why tell us this lie? The bottom line is that he had to unload labor and couldn’t tell us the truth why. I’ve asked myself a hundred times why he would do it that way. I can’t figure out why he wouldn’t just tell us the truth – he couldn’t afford us any longer and had to let us go. But now he has a crew in the back? Wonder how he can all of the sudden afford the labor?

    Kayleigh – weird is exactly right. If he told me the truth I may still be a customer but not anymore.

    KN – you say he doesn’t care about his customers but I say he cares even less about his employees.

  • D April 1, 2010 (11:34 am)

    Wallflower, I don’t even know where to start. That was sarcasm about health codes; I take them very seriously, but apparently Claycamp doesn’t. And no one’s talking about paying a bill late. Claycamp’s also no newcomer to small business. He’s left a trail of failed enterprises, students who paid for services they didn’t get, and vendors and creditors who haven’t been paid. I’m simply tired of WSB wasting time and resources promoting this guy when none of his problems is unique to any other food enterprise out there.

  • AnotherIdiotInWS April 1, 2010 (11:35 am)

    Hey Wallflower, you go ahead and support this guy. Better yet, why not sign up and pre-pay for a year’s worth of aged beef and the “bacon of the month” plan for 2 years! What a great idea! Then, when this guy’s suppliers stop providing product (when he doesn’t pay the bills) starts to happen, you too will be out of some money – with no way of getting it back.
    I have never seen an article like this on WSB before. I, along with others already commenting, would like to know why this much space is given today? There are a number of great stories throughout West Seattle.

  • KN April 1, 2010 (11:40 am)

    J: So sorry. Case in point. There are far better things on the horizon for you…

  • cjboffoli April 1, 2010 (11:40 am)

    Lynne: First, thanks for reading. My recollection was that you suggested the food at the Swinery was unsafe to eat. Having taken a closer look at Mr. Claycamp and his operation, I would still disagree strongly with your assessment.
    Considering all of the various cuts of meat in the cases at the Swinery, it is clear that the team there DOES know how to butcher animals. They are trained chefs after all. They just couldn’t do it as fast as someone who only butchers animals all day and does nothing else. That hardly supports your past assertions that they are not “legitimate” and that people should be “fearful of consuming anything this business prepares.”
    Claycamp has clearly had some ongoing issues with successfully running a profitable business. But my sense is that, for this CIA-trained professional chef, the food part isn’t his weak point. My research on the matter indicates that his compliance issues have less to do with unsafe food practices and more to do with his difficulties in effectively and patiently navigating government rules and bureaucracy.

  • onceachef April 1, 2010 (11:42 am)

    I have to agree – The Swinery (Gabriel) has had a great marketing campaign going with WSB! I never want to see a business go under but Gabriel seems to come up with every excuse after-the-fact that can possibly be conjured up as to “why it didn’t work”. I’m not going to go into a deep criticism of him but I do think he needs to be a bit more humble (with everyone – students, employees, the public and vendors) and a lot more savvy to succeed….he’s alienated a lot of people over time.

  • charlabob April 1, 2010 (11:51 am)

    J, as far as we (were) concerned, the employees were the business. Much as I’ve been looking forward to today’s reopening, I won’t be dropping by anymore, with cash or a credit card.

    CB, thanks for what actually turned out to be a useful expose. Well-written, as always, although I suspect the landlord became disenchanted over the live ducks incident, rather than disenfranchised. :-)

  • kittylove April 1, 2010 (11:54 am)

    i think it was established in an earlier story that Christopher is a friend of the owner. that explains the abundance of biased articles about this place.

    i have a few comments about this story:

    – the comment that he doesnt legally have to repay people speaks volumes about the type of business person he is.
    – i know the owner of the neighboring property that filed the complaint about the electrical work. the Swinery owner also began renovation and made construction plans before he determined the actual property border. this included destroying landscaping (including a 50 year old rose bush). he also has not kept his word to correct a security issue.
    – the fact that he has such disdain for the health department tells me all i need to know about the food products he sells. no thank you.

    —–and finally….rabbits???….did you have to announce that so close to Easter???

  • Jacob April 1, 2010 (12:01 pm)

    I don’t think Christopher should be allowed to write about this guy on WSB any more.

  • Chris April 1, 2010 (12:13 pm)

    Couple of nits to pick:

    I think “disenfranchised” should be “disenchanted”, unless somebody’s vote was taken away. And “primal” is normally reserved for screams, in my experience, rather than cuts of meat.

  • dawsonct April 1, 2010 (12:24 pm)

    C’mon, ranters, you’re not taking at least a LITTLE schadenfreude from this?

    No doubt Gabe’s genius is somewhat confined to the kitchen (or at least, doesn’t extend to business), but writing as someone who has been critical of him more often than not, the snarky commentary is a bit over the top. Speaking as a member of Seattle’s “food community” I don’t find he has lost any credibility among his fellow professionals; what you see is what you get.

    BTW Gabe, nice rack!

  • D April 1, 2010 (12:27 pm)

    Great points, kittylove.

  • Diane April 1, 2010 (12:28 pm)

    all I can say is, wow!

  • RickB April 1, 2010 (12:32 pm)

    The proper name for “KCPH” is actually Public Health – Seattle & King County, PHSKC for short. Check their web site for confirmation. http://www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices/health.aspx

  • dawsonct April 1, 2010 (12:35 pm)

    Full sides of meat are ‘primals’. Large pieces off those that contain many cuts are called ‘sub-primals’.

    And I think this time of the year, when thousands of soon-to-be neglected and abandoned bunny-rabbits are being given as gifts, is as good a time as any to discuss eating the delicious, lean meat of rabbit.

  • Lauren April 1, 2010 (12:39 pm)

    I do appreciate the official WSB response. Perhaps these Swinery articles bother me because they are written by someone who is obviously a friend, and so lack the objectivity found in all of the other WSB posts.

    • WSB April 1, 2010 (1:03 pm)

      Christopher can’t speak for himself at the moment because we asked him to join us at the Westwood Village scene since it originally was called out as something major and we thought we’d need reinforcements, so I don’t know if he’s back online yet – he just sent me some more photos from that. I can’t find it but he has refuted the “friend” claim in an earlier comment thread. He is certainly familiar with Claycamp and has followed the guy’s career and has been a customer. I don’t think that disqualifies anyone from writing about a certain subject; if I didn’t ever write about any business I’d patronized, for example, it would be pretty hard to cover the neighborhood. We do disclose relationships such as always noting when a business is a sponsor. But bottom line, I’m the editor and I make the call – this, I thought was worth running. Christopher and I talked extensively before he wrote it – he first got the source information about the allegations against Claycamp, checked those out, then had the interview with Claycamp, and also followed up with King County Public Health.
      I respect any disagreement with the merits of anything we publish, of course, but in terms of “other things to give space to,” the Web is almost infinite, and this isn’t taking away from anything else we’re covering today. FWIW, Patrick and I haven’t set foot in the Swinery – maybe one of these days … TR

  • Chris April 1, 2010 (12:57 pm)

    @dawsonct Thanks for the info on “primal”, I stand corrected. That’s not a usage with which I was familiar.

  • cjboffoli April 1, 2010 (1:02 pm)

    As I have said in the past, though I enjoy his products, it would be really stretching it to say that I am a “friend” of Gabriel Claycamp or lack objectivity on this subject. I suppose a friend would have been satisfied to accept the public reasons he gave for the closure and ignored asking him to account for his failures in public. In fact, the genesis of this article was conversations with some of his former staff who, though they declined to go on the record, communicated to me privately that there was more to the story than what he was saying.
    This is largely Claycamp’s account of everything that went wrong, including things he had not talked about before. I realize he is a controversial figure but I have a hard time understanding how anyone could read this feature and think that it comes off as a marketing piece. I think the subject speaks for himself.
    As with other features I have done on restaurants such as Café Revò, Bakery Nouveau and Mashiko, I have a genuine interest in people in West Seattle who are doing interesting things with food. Sure, I have written more about Claycamp’s endeavors than any other business in West Seattle, but probably only because all of the drama has meant there has been a lot to write about.
    Small businesses have a very high failure rate. And business owners and restauranteurs are not always as forthcoming about mistakes they make. Whether or not people like Claycamp or attack me personally for shining a light on his endeavors is perhaps less interesting to me than what this story represents as a record of what this small business has gone through and continues to go through.
    I welcome and am very curious to see comments of people who have their own versions of their dealings with Claycamp. But to continue to insist that I am biased and that he and I socialize is unfair and not true.

  • AnotherIdiotInWS April 1, 2010 (1:19 pm)

    Lauren, you find “objectivity” in the “reporting” on WSB? Huh… maybe I need to point my browser to a different WSB, because the one I go to is not exactly “objective.” It is a blog, and it should be used as a blog accordingly.
    I don’t think we need to worry too much about this wonderful chef who continues to use people’s money erroneously to survive. He will fail here, too – just like all the other places he has failed. Just be careful you are not the next one not getting paid to work for him or the next one signing up for “classes” or any other “fee” for future considerations. Nobody complaining about his “business sense” ever questioned his ability as a chef, so you can stop saying we don’t support him due to the bad taste in our mouths. That bad taste is due to being ripped off, not his food. Reading comprehension is obviously a skill some have more than others. Lastly, and I do talk too much, I think the comments (including my own) about why this guy gets more “press” is more about the length and explanation and use of SPACE on your site. I haven’t seen a story like this on any other business, but I wll acknowledge having seen smaller articles on many others.

  • maplesyrup April 1, 2010 (1:29 pm)

    Wow lots of haters here.

    Bottom line for me is that they had unique, good food that was worth the money. Everyone in the shop was always very nice and treated me well.

    So I’ll go back. In fact I’m pretty excited about it.

    PS: If you’re mad about the WSB running coverage on him you should cancel your subscriptions. ;)

  • waman April 1, 2010 (1:45 pm)

    …..& remember to eat all your veggies ;)

  • Lauren April 1, 2010 (1:48 pm)

    I stand corrected.

  • charlabob April 1, 2010 (1:52 pm)

    This is really the best kind of “investigative” journalism. It didn’t start with a point of view and it let the subject speak for himself. You could even say it “worked,” — people in the community know more about the business and the personalities and philosophies behind it and can decide what that means to them. WSB (and Christopher) didn’t say, “This guy is slime,” and they didn’t say, “Poor mistreated victim.” The article simply articulated (couldn’t help myself) and we can all decide what, if anything, that means to our behavior. It obviously “worked” because Maplesyrup and I read the same things and came to opposing conclusions and that’s a hallmark of good reporting. Selfishly, it also worked because I tend to stay away from looooong expositions and I read it all — twice. :-)

    I’d like to see more reporting like that — it takes time and cycles that aren’t always available in the 24 hour news cycle.

  • Really? April 1, 2010 (1:53 pm)

    WSB Wrote:
    ‘We’re not the only people who’ve written about this guy and this is two articles in 8 months.’

    Odd a Google search of your site turns up at least 4 ‘articles’ with the name swinery in the title this year alone. Unless you meant something else by ‘article?’


  • Mags April 1, 2010 (1:56 pm)

    I don’t care about all the drama going on here and I don’t eat bacon so I will never go to the Swinery but I really enjoy the WSB longer stories on local businesses. It is interesting to learn more about the businesses and the people behind them. I think starting a new business is a huge challenge and I never knew how much work was involved. Keep up with these cool profiles, would be interested in seeing interested gardens profiled, interesting WS houses, etc.

  • JimmyG April 1, 2010 (2:06 pm)

    Christopher may not be a “friend” of the owner, but he is certainly one of his most strident and vocal cheerleaders. I certainly don’t think Christopher should be allowed to report on Claycamp or his enterprises anymore on WSB.

    I also see your point Tracy, that you partonize a lot of businesses here in WS. But you don’t continually come out in their defense if there are negative comments made in the forum or on the main pages about said businesses. That’s the difference with Christopher.

    As many have said above there are much more deserving small businesses in the WS area that I’d love to see a lengthy piece on instead of this guy.

    His string of unhappy ex-employees and students along with his obvious inability to keep a business afloat for any length of time speaks volumes to me.

    I don’t wish him ill will, but I’m willing to put down a 20 his business won’t be here 2 years from now.

  • Keith April 1, 2010 (2:07 pm)

    Agreed with Mags, I found this an interesting read. And it’s no “puff piece,” for sure.

  • Patrick April 1, 2010 (2:14 pm)

    Gee whiz! Mapelsyrup is right. So many people are so negative and so mean-spirited. Give the guy credit for having the humility to admit his past mistakes and for opening up about the issues he’s run in to in opening a very unique small business. No, he’s not perfect. And yes, he was forced to close a previous business in which people had paid ahead for classes. I had a close a business in a very similar predicament years ago. It was awful (for both my clients and me), but it couldn’t be helped, it was legal, and I learned a lot from it. So why not give an independent business that does have a very unique product a 2nd chance? I myself am picking up my Easter ham there this afternoon and I know it’ll be great!

  • christopherboffoli April 1, 2010 (2:19 pm)

    Again, love it or hate it, thanks to everyone for reading and for being part of the discussion. I’m hardly the best writer in the world and there are plenty of journalists (the publishers of the WSB are just two who come to mind) who are much more skilled than I am and who could have perhaps done a better job with the subject matter. However, in my mind one of the best things about the West Seattle Blog is that if you don’t like an article then you only have to wait five minutes and something much more interesting is sure to be posted.

  • KBear April 1, 2010 (2:19 pm)

    Can I have some bacon now?

  • ttt April 1, 2010 (2:27 pm)

    we moved to wseattle recently and love the WSB. It sounds like the owner of the swinery is best at cooking and may not be the best at being a busniess man… I’m interested in rabbit–why not? Lots of cute fluffy animals are eaten… even those cute fuzzy easter chicks turn into chickens that are eventually butchered…

  • J April 1, 2010 (2:32 pm)

    Patrick – That’s just the thing. The guy has been given A LOT of chances by a lot of people.
    JimmyG – I agree. I would be VERY surprised to see The Swinery survive 2 years. He may be a good cook but that hasn’t helped him in the past.
    I’m not knocking him for hearsay accounts. I’ve experienced it first hand in the past 6 months. The way he has treated customers and employees is unforgivable. And the sad thing is…he probably has no idea he’s even doing anything wrong. The WS Blog isn’t the only one buzzing about this:

  • D April 1, 2010 (2:38 pm)

    No puff piece? Oh, please. My seventh grade English teacher taught me that just because a report is long doesn’t mean it’s good. I’m sorry to criticize because I normally love the writing, but this article is an advertisement and an interview, not journalism. No opposing views are provided, only a general statement from the health department and one vague reference from Swinery insiders who “alleged” management problems. While it seemed to be difficult drumming up any opposing views, I know all about the new walk-up window, new classes, and new food additions (Rabbits! Bacon chocolate chip cookie dough! Hazelnuts!! and lower prices on prepared foods!!). Tell me to “just stop reading”, but this article would have gotten me a D in Miss Ellis’s class.

  • Kayleigh April 1, 2010 (2:39 pm)

    For heaven’s sake–can people really not see the lack of objectivity here? Really? I don’t eat bacon and have no opinion on the Swinery and it’s still as plain as day to me.

  • WS CP April 1, 2010 (2:47 pm)

    Love the impromptu editorial staff that insists that WSB not dedicate any more time to this guy. WSB is FREE – and can write whatever they want and you all can choose to read it or not. This team has provided outstanding service to this community. The narrow minded nay-sayers that wish to regulate what should and should not be printed are fortunate to have this venue to even state that opinion.

    I found this to be an interesting, inside look at a mircocosm of small business. Is it representative of all small businesses? Probably not, but taken for what it is, it’s a good piece. And it really does not matter whether or not Christopher is a friend, acquaintance or the part time live-in housmaid / psychic for these people (Chris I’m not implying that you’re ANY of those) – this was well-written and WSB provided an intersting perspective on one business.

    WSB – keep reporting – at least you’re generating buzz!

  • chas redmond April 1, 2010 (3:09 pm)

    Maybe a different animal should be display with this many people getting at each other’s goat.

  • Kayleigh April 1, 2010 (3:10 pm)

    WS CP, my friends are not objective about me. Their friendship, caring, loyalty (or, per ejemplo, bacon fixation) colors what they would see or write about me. That’s *why* they’re my friends! They like me! And please stop stating the obvious, which is that WSB can publish whatever they want. Duh. We all know that. It doesn’t stop us from having a brain and using it to come to a different conclusion.

  • Eliza April 1, 2010 (3:17 pm)

    I enjoyed the in depth piece and would like to see more of them. I have never been a customer but it is always interesting to learn more about the businesses in the area.

  • old timer April 1, 2010 (3:19 pm)

    Thanks WSB – I love it!
    Great report, lots of commentary –
    way better than ‘reality’ TV!
    And it’s all about West Seattle!
    Keep ’em coming!

  • M. April 1, 2010 (3:19 pm)

    Friend or not, Boffoli should have recused himself from doing the piece because of his previous marketing-oriented coverage of the Swinery, and — most important — because of the appearance of favoritism. That WSB did not anticipate the appearance of favoritism suggests they revisit the canons of Journalism 101 and assign someone else to cover the Swinery.

  • Kevin April 1, 2010 (3:21 pm)

    Christopher is a very talented photojournalist, and despite his feelings otherwise, is a good writer as well.
    The bottom line is that he reports a credible and factual story. Who cares if he is a “friend” of Claycamp? After all, this is how we get some of our “best” information in many cases.
    Someone “knows” someone, “is a neighbor”, “has worked with” etc.
    Funny how a story receives more credibility when it is told by someone we know and respect, who also happens to have an “inside” connection to someone or something being reported on.

  • Keith April 1, 2010 (3:36 pm)

    While no person and/or reporter is 100% objective or free of opinion, a “puff piece” is a story that paints the subject only in a flattering light. This report certainly ain’t that – Claycamp’s own words here do most of the damage.
    Yes, there is also information about the business and its products. But it’s hardly ad copy. Personally, when I read some of the plans for Swinery 2.0, my thought was “out of the frying pan, into the fire.” Perhaps you get out of it what you read into it.

  • JTM April 1, 2010 (4:06 pm)

    Love the article, love primal cuts, and bacon, and rabbits, and all the yummy things going on over there. Do not love bad business skills, ripping off students, or the number of whiny disgruntled folks that have popped up here.
    Great story about a small business and a controversial businessman. As someone not involved in any of the controversy, I have definately been wondering about the Swinery and am glad they are back. Success isn’t achieved by giving up, and I think all of us, supporters, detractors, and people in the middle like me should be able to take that away from the article.
    As a private enterprise doing so much good for our often overlooked community I hope WSB will continue to write about whatever they want to, whenever they want to, and however they want to. And as a private enterprise, offering unique products in West Seattle, making some (if not always enough) attempt to righting past wrongs, I hope Swinery will be selling gourmet goodies for a long, long time.
    Bacon will make you happy if you are sad. If not, try zoloft.

  • Wbn April 1, 2010 (4:06 pm)

    “And business owners and restauranteurs are not always as forthcoming about mistakes they make”.

    And who is?

  • Meghan April 1, 2010 (4:08 pm)

    Overall, the WSB is more objective than most local media (and most national ones too). It’s certainly a million times better than the West Seattle Herald. I recently sat at Tully’s and overhead a West Seattle Herald “reporter” (and I use the term loosely) “interview” a retired federal agent for an article he was doing. All he did was fawn over the guy (who was a braggart; obviously very proud of himself) for over an hour, drinking in every word he said with a big dopey grin on his face like a schoolboy, asking no compelling questions whatsoever. Everyone around me was rolling their eyes at how obnoxious the “interview” was. When when they left, someone said out loud ‘No wonder the West Seattle Herald is such a rag’ – to which everyone nodded and agreed. So thank god we have the West Seattle Blog for generally fair, compelling news.

  • Jacob April 1, 2010 (4:14 pm)

    Keith – Allowing Claycamp to spin things for himself and soften the truth, even just a little bit, is pretty weak in my opinion. I don’t think this was intentionally a “fluff piece,” but I don’t feel much work was done to verify his claims, and many tougher questions that could have been asked are left unanswered.
    What about the accusations he sold meat from Cash&Cary under the false pretenses that it was local?
    What about the fact that he has had access to this downtown “kitchen” for this entire time they have been closed, yet used it as an excuse for their abrupt closing a few weeks back? I feel like he got a free pass with his “all of the above” answer and a quick subject change.
    What about questions regarding prices? Are they passing on that 15% merchant account fee to customers to help float their business?
    How about asking if they have all their permits in place? The seattle weekly comments indicate they STILL aren’t in the free and clear.

  • Gina April 1, 2010 (4:39 pm)

    As part of a family that owns buildings in the Junction and in Georgetown, this story points out many of the pitfalls tenants and ex-tenants have run into. The transistion from being good at something, quitting the day job, and starting a storefront is a money draining operation. Even well established businesses can suddenly go belly up. I think it takes a leap of faith.

    I have been to the Swinery. The ground beef was the best I have had since there was a butcher at the S&Q.

    Market demand will determine the Swinery’s future.

  • JanS April 1, 2010 (4:52 pm)

    OY ! I’m amazed at the editorials here by people who have never met this man, never done business with him, yet continue to crucify him. Would you all have been happy if Christopher had written that the man is an a$$, that he sucks at business, his meat products are shoddy, he’s a failure to the nth degree? You would have come down hard on the writer for saying those things , too. The article speaks for itself. I didn’t get “ad” out of it. I saw that the business has a lot of problems, and time will tell. But it’s not up to me to tell whoever to print what, and to tell whoever how to run or not run his business, or to claim that the man running this business is someone not to be trusted with anything ever again.And it certainly isn’t up to me to pass along alleged rumors (as Jacob did) to further ruin this man’s reputation. Look in the mirror , folks, and make sure the stones shouldn’t come in the direction of your own glass house first!

  • grr April 1, 2010 (5:03 pm)

    just curious.. anyone here have a business fail? File bankruptcy and walk away from their debts? Turn their keys to their house over to a bank? Some people just take the easy way out.. some people KEEP trying to make it right and keep working and working at it.

    I found the story interesting, open and honest. I also find it hard to believe the more ‘ex-employees’ weren’t willing to go on-record with their grievances.

    I think Gabe has learned some very hard lessons. Perhaps, in hindsight, he should/could have just stuck to what he does best..being a chef, and let someone with the business sense run the business..

    I see someone that keeps trying, keeps dusting himself something fails, and tries it again. I DO think he’s learned from his mistakes, his other failed ventures, and his current and past debt obligations.

    to publicly state that he could ‘legaly walk away’ from debt/obligation, but ‘ISN’T GOING TO, speaks volumes to me. A lot of business/people simple DO just that…walk away.

    I may or may not sign up for classes, etc. I certainly will continue to be a customer, and I certainly do hope that Gabe makes good on all his promises to make things right with anyone who needs to be made right.

    and no. I don’t like rabbit. Tastes weird to me. Bacon, otoh…

  • Jacob April 1, 2010 (5:15 pm)


    Seems his wife, and business partner has also been busy trying to spin things as their “communications consultant.” Tisk-tisk.

  • Lauren April 1, 2010 (5:22 pm)

    It doesn’t matter that I haven’t met the man. I’m not telling WSB what to print or not, just that they need to cognizant of apparent conflicts of interest. If this article had been written by anyone other than Mr. Boffoli, I doubt this debate would even be happening. The WSB is a wonderfully thorough news source 99% of the time, which is why this particular article seems to be bothering so many people.

  • christopherboffoli April 1, 2010 (5:32 pm)

    Jacob: I’m sorry that you are disappointed with the depth of the article. Even some of the best journalists in the business, with teams of fact checkers, can still do better by bringing in ever more sources. For a lot of reasons this was the best story I could produce with the time and resources I had. Seattle is a small place and the professional food community is even smaller. Some with more knowledge of this story than I unfortunately refused to go on record which limited my options in the way this story could be presented.
    You clearly seem to have your own history with the Swinery and apparently have your own insider knowledge of this subject. But without knowing you or how to contact you, I wonder how you would expect me to have been in touch with you. It is much easier to level accusations, anonymously on the Internet, than it is to write an article with your own name for which you are responsible.
    Though language critical of Claycamp could have been couched in stronger words, let’s just quickly run down the facts that this story presents: Claycamp said he had to close down because of construction issues. But that wasn’t the whole truth. His mismanagement of the business led to cash-flow issues which led to him not paying his purveyors and employees. He went overboard with the demolition and had huge construction issues. He burned through most of his start-up capital on construction alone. His neighbors filed a complaint with him with the City. His electrical contractor died an an inopportune time. The downtown kitchen was a mistake. They bit off more than they could chew with whole animal breakdowns. He didn’t stick to his business plan. The Swinery had a difficult time managing inventory and faced an uphill battle with providing customers what they wanted. He hired way too many people and did not control his costs. He paid too much for meat. He continued to have issues with the Health Department. The failure of the Culinary Communion and the way he handled it continued to cause problems for him and is partly still not remedied.
    Is this really the pro-Claycamp fluff piece that some think it is?
    As for accusations that he sold dubiously-sourced meat under false pretenses, your allegations were the first I heard of it when I read your comments in the Weekly today. Generally, unless I have a specific reason to, I’d usually not ask an interviewee if he is guilty of fraud. Former Swinery co-owner Heidi Kenyon categorically denied your accusations in the same Seattle Weekly thread. So barring any actual receipts or pictures of Claycamp pushing a meat-filled shopping cart out of Costco it is difficult to take that accusation any further. But you’ve now put it out there on the Net in two places where it will live forever.
    True, Claycamp told me that the Swinery has continued to have access to their soon-closing commercial kitchen at 4th and Main. In fact, I’m told they still have access to this kitchen until April 15th if they need it. I probably did not emphasize the point enough, but the larger issue was that the downtown kitchen was of absolutely no use to him in that his purveyors had stopped sending meat due to non-payment and he ran out of money to pay his employees.
    Considering that Claycamp burned through $75,000 in actual (non-construction related) operating expenses in roughly five months he was hardly gouging his customers to compensate for the 15% reserve demanded by the credit card processor.
    Regarding permits, here is what I was told: The commercial kitchen at 4th and Main is fully permitted for food production until the middle of April (and as a matter of public record, there seem to have been no critical Health Department violations at that location in the time they have operated there). The Swinery shop (front of the house) is fully permitted for food sales. On the day of my interview with Claycamp (earlier this week), electricians were working frantically to complete the electrical work so that the walk-in coolers could be finished, turned on and chilled. Claycamp said the next step after that was to have the plumbing inspection and then the final health inspection. He also said he was waiting for final confirmation of the approval of his HACCP plan. Claycamp said he anticipated inspections to be completed this week and, until they are, he will obviously be using the kitchen at 4th and Main until the commercial kitchen at 3207 California is fully permitted.

  • JanS April 1, 2010 (5:40 pm)

    and Mr. Boffoli has stated that he’s not a personal friend of Gabe Claycamp. But you just refuse to believe that? Christopher is well known as a foodie, and he’s the one who turned us on originally to the yummy bacon that Mr. Claycamp makes. But he’s also interested in the food at quite a few restaurants in WS, and other places. My take is this…if you or I had done the interview with Mr. Claycamp, he may not have been as forthcoming as he was with Christopher. He got more information about this than anything any of us could have gotten.

    I don’t see a conflict of interest.

    If I absolutely love the food at the restaurant down the street from me, I can’t objectively report on the business acumen of that business? Is that what you’re saying?

  • James April 1, 2010 (5:41 pm)

    This guy seems to keep messing up in each venture. I am kind of tired of his BS. I won’t support him.

  • Jacob April 1, 2010 (5:51 pm)

    Christopher, I’m not “The Insider.” Nice try though. Perhaps you should check your facts before posting things on the net “where it will live forever.” ;)

  • JanS April 1, 2010 (6:06 pm)

    Jacob…are you saying that you know who the”insider” is, and that his facts are, indeed, correct? And, if you don’t, why would you pass on information that is strictly hearsay? (If “the insider’s” info is correct, he can’t use his name? Why should we believe him?) Nice try though.

  • dsa April 1, 2010 (6:14 pm)

    Interesting history and controversy going on here. I knew nothing about the Swinery until today and am not concerned with WSB’s reporting, however I was surprised to read that people considered the story to be ad copy.

    Regardless, I’m glad to see an independent butcher in the neighborhood and I hope he succeeds.

  • rw April 1, 2010 (6:28 pm)

    Hang in there Christopher. Your article was not an investigative piece, even though some people want to judge it as it was positioned as one. As it was positioned, relaying one fairly open businessman’s tale of mistakes he has made, you did a great job.

    People, you may have issues with the way the owner of Swinery does business. So don’t buy from him. And bitch about him as much as you like. But lay off Christopher and WSB who were just doing their jobs, and a damn good job at that.

    In my case, I want to try some of that bacon, and maybe even a bunny and some other nibbles. At the same time I won’t be paying in advance for anything from the Swinery either.

  • B April 1, 2010 (6:37 pm)

    I am a butcher with a local business. I take a lot of pride in the skill of butchery, and was curious about our new business in town. I was offended by what was offered to many who where probably my customers as well. I would love to be a patron of a great sandwich window, but leave the cuttin to the pro’s!

  • Gabriel Claycamp April 1, 2010 (7:05 pm)

    Woot! I haven’t been crucified like this since Last Easter! How fun. It was getting a bit boring around here. Thank you to all of the fans, and to all the cranky folk… come and get some meat and we can tell old stories about “when I was a douchebag”. It will be great. xoxoxo

  • k April 1, 2010 (7:40 pm)

    classy remark. i love bacon, but not that much.

  • Lohoho April 1, 2010 (7:45 pm)

    Love the Swinery! Love Gabe! Been a fan of his since Gypsy Everyone smile, eat bacon, and chill.

  • nigel April 1, 2010 (7:51 pm)

    I make a killer ribeye el gaucho style with a chimmichurri sauce. always a crowd pleaser even with kids (their first experience with spice). the best so far was from here, melt in the mouth on top of a nice crunchy baguette. I paid cash. enjoy! (probably not the first business in america that has credit issues these days).

  • d April 1, 2010 (8:09 pm)

    Wow, do you think that was HELPING your business? What a flakey thing to say Claycamp.

    • WSB April 1, 2010 (8:11 pm)

      I do want to say one thing. I have no proof that comment actually was from Gabriel Claycamp. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. The IP doesn’t crossreference to anything obvious that would prove it one way or another. Just a caveat … TR

  • Westy April 1, 2010 (8:20 pm)

    I have always sort of been on the fence about this guy. I knew enough to not support him, but felt he always sort of got a bad rap. Then he decided to leave that comment… what a complete douchebag!!! I will now be spreading the word about this moron and The Swinery to all my costumers. Bound to fail again.

  • JanS April 1, 2010 (8:30 pm)

    wow…those horses are really high out there these days, aren’t they?

    again…as the editor said…there is no proof that Gabriel Claycamp actually made that statement. But if it’s on the internet, it must be true, huh…

  • bleebah April 1, 2010 (8:37 pm)

    The writing by Boffoli is great stuff… this business man’s behavior follows a familiar pattern of that of an old uncle I had… he was manic-depressive and always had some brilliant ideas and grand plans but was horrible at executing them… but he could talk to anyone about his plans and get people excited and lots of support..his plans always sounded super-d-duper and he always had fans… turns out he did some terrible things and had a lot of people fooled…but I digress. Gabe seems like a true character, larger than life, who has a hard row to hoe. I wish him well, but hopefully he is following all health code laws and is selling what he says he is selling. The truth will out. Who cares if he is Christopher’s friend… the article allows the man (Gabe) to paint himself as, how do I say this nicely, a whack job. It is a joke to criticize the WSB for this piece, as if the WSB is a major news source that you rely on… it is entertaining and informative, but I do not expect unbiased reporting here, hell, I can’t even get that on the major news networks or newspapers.

  • d April 1, 2010 (8:37 pm)

    If the real guy didn’t make the comment, I would think he would get on and refute. Just my .02. But maybe bad publicity is good publicity to him.

  • cjboffoli April 1, 2010 (8:55 pm)

    History has a lot of brilliant inventors that weren’t such good businesspeople. And the art world is also full of creatives who don’t make the money part work. I think something that many here are missing is that the food is good. Full stop. The bacon, the hams, the cassoulet and chicken liver paté are delicious. And no one else in town seems to be making them as well as Claycamp is. I have also tasted a REAL difference with the pork, chicken and beef the Swinery has been sourcing. The food has been the basis of my enthusiasm all along. People love the juicy stories and the train wrecks. But let’s remember that the products are remarkable.

  • miws April 1, 2010 (9:14 pm)

    “If the real guy didn’t make the comment, I would think he would get on and refute”


    There’s so much I want to say here. Much of it has been said already by others, so it would just be repetitive. Maybe tomorrow, when I’m not so sleepy, I’ll post the other thoughts I have.


    However, I would like to address what I quoted above; “d”, when you submitted that post, it was less than two hours, (closer to 1.5) after “Gabriel Claycamp” posted.

    Assuming that poster is an imposter, what makes you think the real Gabriel, would be sitting at a computer sometime within in that time frame perusing WSB, to where he could come here and defend himself? I’d guess there’s a good chance he’s busy at his shop.


    If that was really him, then yeah, a bit tacky, but in a way I wouldn’t blame him, considering all of the accusations and other crap people are posting here in regards to him.



  • EMT April 1, 2010 (9:49 pm)

    I myself am super excited for Gabe and the team over there, I know it has been a long road to get to today and they deserve it. Now maybe I don’t know all of the back story from the past, and you know what? I really don’t effing care. I have meet Gabe and worked with him a few times and he is a chef that is full of knowledge and excitement. Ya so what, maybe there were some issues in the past, but is it really such a big deal that people still have to talk sh*t about someone that they don’t really know about issues that in many respects are not related to them and are all in the past. Why is it that people need to continue to big up old stuff? What is it about drama that people get off on. Tell you what, if you don’t want to support a local business, then don’t go there, as a small business owner I wouldn’t want your money myself.

  • g April 1, 2010 (10:01 pm)

    no more swinery for me. too bad.

  • Seadanes April 1, 2010 (10:10 pm)

    Criminy. Haters have too much time on their hands, and isn’t the anonymity of the internet a marvelous place for all you folks to unload your anger. The Swinery’s products speak for themselves. I’m going to agree with JanS here and say that lots of business people have problems, but not too many are this honest about them. I commend Gabriel for that. I will continue to buy wonderful Swinery goods and hope for his continued success. Great meat products are not abundant in West Seattle, and it’s nice to find a place where the employees are friendly and you always know you are going to get something good to make for dinner.

  • Mr. E. Meat April 1, 2010 (10:28 pm)

    I don’t think anybody is “digging up old stuff.” These issues are all pretty recent and the majority of people making comments know this guy. He has a shady past, a shady present and probably a very shady future.

  • I loved 'em at 4th & Main April 2, 2010 (12:04 am)

    I’ll be looking forward to visiting the new Swinery. as the one at 4th & Main is remembered fondly by me and many of my co-workers. All I care about is: a) the food is great; and b) the health department gives them a passing grade. . .I’ll be there!

  • WSeattleite April 2, 2010 (12:41 am)

    I don’t know if anyone’s looked at the back of the Swinery, but it seems king of strange to install huge walk-in freezers out of doors and right next to an alley. Last I looked the back of the building didn’t look too desireable and most of the businesses and residences along the alley keep their dumpsters and garbage out back. Also, the alley borders residential property so these out-door units (meat lockers?) are near yards and dwellings.
    Someone asked in an earlier message who owns the building, and if they’d be partly responsible for some of the building repairs. I don’t know about the latter question, although it seems the owner might cover some expenses related to code, but I’m pretty sure the owner is John Bennett (who I read owns Luna Park and quite a lot of Georgetown real estate).

  • st2003 April 2, 2010 (3:27 am)

    I really enjoyed the article and would like to see more like it. Well done!

  • EMT April 2, 2010 (8:07 am)

    @ Mr. E. Meat;

    Regardless, the past is the past, is it really that big a deal? Why can’t people just live in the present? As others have said already, all that really matters is that the health department gives the passing grade. Don’t worry I seriously doubt that anyone will count on you to help support another great local business.

  • waman April 2, 2010 (9:07 am)

    Meat is Murder! & we do not need to slaughter animals nor eat meat to survive in this world any longer – so why eat meat?????

  • moxilot April 2, 2010 (9:09 am)

    Look, I don’t use credit history, past business failures, or random comments on a blog post to vet the businesses I frequent. I don’t know the personal history of the person who owns West5, Easy Street, or even the WSB. All I know is that when I go into those places, I feel welcomed, they provide a worthy service, and I there’s a fair trade of goods-money. Every time I’ve been into the Swinery, the folks have been kind and helpful. I enjoy their meats and various baked or prepared goods. I feel like I’m paying a fair price considering the quality and philosophy.

    When I’m eating the chocolate bacon bar or bacon caramels, I don’t care that Gabe doesn’t have keen construction skills. I don’t care that his downtown walk-up window failed. And if the 15% credit card fee was passed onto me (if that’s even true), I obviously thought the price I paid was fair, so who cares?

    Businesses shut down all the time, and we aren’t privy to every shortcoming that caused them to close their doors. At the very least, I respect Gabe’s commitment to transparency (relative to almost every other business). I was on the Culinary Communion mailing list, and when they sent out the message they were going to close down, Gabe made what seemed like a very sincere and honest attempt to acknowledge the folks who purchased additional classes or had unused gift certs. In that message, he said they would honor those certificates, but ASKED that people used them in $50/month increments. I know for some people that may sound weak and part of another ploy, but it sounded like a good plan to me. The new business wouldn’t be completely carried down with the cement shoes of the past business, and people would eventually get their money back.

    Hey you FasTan folks… how are you loving the switch over to Emerald City Tan? https://westseattleblog.com/forum/topic/huge-rant-emerald-city-tanning The FasTan people just took off and now everyone is looking for their credits. At least Gabe is trying to come up with solutions.

    If nothing else, Gabe’s got an immeasurable amount of passion. Does he have the greatest business sense? Probably not. Does he do an inordinate amount of leaping without looking? It sure looks like it. Will I keep going there because the bacon and salamis and everything else I’ve tried have been incredible? ABSOLUTELY.

  • JoB April 2, 2010 (9:13 am)

    Wow.. what a lot of passion….
    the business will succeed or fail dependent upon how well the lessons of the last failure were learned… and the reliability of the product…..
    whether this business succeeds or fails… the landlord will have a much better space to offer the next tenant and West Seattle and the landlord will both benefit….. christopher will go on writing about food.. with a decided preference for what is currently unavailable… and will continue to fascinate some and infuriate others… and life will go on:)

    I hope the Swinery succeeds because it offers something new to West Seattle.. but only time will tell.

  • D April 2, 2010 (9:50 am)

    Luckily we do have a choice where we spend our money. Unlike moxilot, I do care about where my hard-earned money goes. If I know a business owner has ripped off employees, customers, creditors, vendors, failed health department inspections, and has done all these mulitple times in the past, I don’t care how good his product is. Some people don’t deserve my business. Claycamp’s not to be praised for pulling himself up from his bootstraps. Whatever he has, he has at the expense of others.

  • J April 2, 2010 (10:01 am)

    D – I couldn’t have said it better

  • sam April 2, 2010 (10:07 am)

    wow. I guess I’m not surprised at all the criticism in the comments. that is what people like to do on the internet.

    was there this much backlash when C. Boffoli published the “dessert porn” photos of items at Bakery Nouveau ? what about other bakeries in West Seattle ?

    I thought the article was an interesting read, and hardly thought it promoted the business. It made the guy sound like a horrible business man who doesn’t always follow through, or cross his t’s and dot his i’s.

    WSB please keep it up. I’ve found your features on local businesses interesting. without them, I wouldn’t know about:

    new wine shop in the junction opening up,
    Donna Ryan photography moving to the Junction,
    someone trying to make a go of opening a running shop,
    a combo wax place and wine bar ?!?,
    the list goes on.
    I like trying new things and like to hear about them in advance, here.

    speaking of which, I’d like to try some bacon…
    we’ve bought bacon in the past at the MM’s butcher. it was fishy tasting, and the butcher said that’s what happens when pigs eat fish.
    hmm, I need to try some of these hazelnut fed ones.

    oh, and looking up past permit history isn’t that hard. we looked up the permit history for a house, as we were in the realtor’s office writing up the offer. the house had a nice kitchen expansion /renovation that wasn’t permitted. oh well, we didn’t get the house in the end.
    looking inside walls is a little trickier though.

  • moxilot April 2, 2010 (10:57 am)

    D and J- I’m not saying I don’t care where my money goes. I obviously care about trying to buy local when it’s a viable option, or I wouldn’t be on this board. What I AM saying is I don’t hold other places I frequent to the standard that you laid out because I don’t have the time nor the resources to do a background check, employee satisfaction survey, and walkthrough of the establishment of every business I walk into. I seriously doubt you do, either. As a customer, I care about my experience, and even though there have been glaring issues with the Swinery business plan and Gabe’s past endeavors, I have seen him try to repair those missteps and move forward. The employees when I’m there seem to be happy (it’s not like being at dinner and hearing your server get yelled at), and I am satisfied with my meal. Gabe’s issue with creditors and suppliers are exactly that… HIS issue with THEM. If they feel like it’s worth taking the risk, then they continue to do business with him. If he can’t find a bank to fund his plans, or suppliers won’t sell him meat, then he shuts down. It’s not like this guy is making a fortune on failed businesses.

    I’m not going to buy futures in this place. I’m not going to join some sort of annual cured meat club. But I will gladly hand money over the counter for some great hamburger/bacon/etc.

  • msfan April 2, 2010 (11:29 am)

    For all you people attacking the article (and its author) on journalistic grounds, may I remind you that this is not the New York Times (no offense to Christopher or the WSB). Rather, the WSB provides a wonderful forum for us all to discuss issues concerning our great neighborhood. I see no reason to chastise someone like Christopher who was willing to dedicate a substantial amount of time to try and provide us with an interesting angle on what is proving to be a hot-button issue like the Swinery. Whether you believe the article was an advertisement (seriously people, did you READ the article) or a hard-hitting editorial is simply irrelevant. The article was clearly thought provoking and has inspired a spirited discussion regarding a local business. For all of you to expect something more is pure folly.

    And for those of you who question the WSB for publishing this article, I think the deluge of responses (many of which are quite passionate) in such a short period of time speaks for itself.

    Great job WSB. Keep up the good work.

  • Bruce King April 2, 2010 (12:10 pm)

    Gabriel states that he’d capitalized this business with $350k, and farther along states that there are unpaid bills from the previous business, culinary communion, including refunds due to customers contractors not paid, and so on.

    CC never went through bankruptcy, and I think i have an idea why — creditors would have gotten a chance to get paid, and an accounting of assets would have been required.

    Would I sell to him? Sure. Cash on the barrel. Gabriels problems with the credit card processor are self-created, and he’s shown that no matter who gives him credit (“…some of them are friends…”) he’s not really committed to paying his bills.

  • cjboffoli April 2, 2010 (12:29 pm)

    msfan: Thanks for the kind words of support.
    I’m an avid New York Times reader. But there are scads of reasons that I know the West Seattle Blog is no New York Times. Here are just a couple: The WSB seems to have a business model that is ascendant whereas the New York Times is losing $75 million a quarter. And the WSB has never had a reporter who has written a series of stories with completely falsified quotes and information plundered from other reporters. :-)

  • dawsonct April 2, 2010 (12:41 pm)

    Hazelnut finished pork IS news; BIG news.

    Money spent with local businesses, especially those that source locally produced goods and services, creates wealth in OUR community.
    At the end of the day, the dollars spent in those businesses stay in the area, they aren’t electronically transferred to Cincinnati, Austin, Pasadena/Germany, never to recirculate in our community again.

  • W Seattle Foodie April 2, 2010 (1:44 pm)

    All I can say is there is ALWAYS seems to be more to the story with Gabe…and it just takes time for it to come out. He has big ideas and goes full boar (pun intended) staffing up and spending money. This is one of the reasons Culinary Communion went out of business. I’m still owed money as are others, so I’m not very surprised that that the same business issues are cropping up again. Gabe is a warm, fun person to be around, but wow….the business side is a disaster. Wish he would learn from past mistakes. Seems like the article brings up areas where he has been down that road before.

    The questions I have are regarding the truth or not of the following things I have heard buzzing around the foodie community:
    1) employees were let go on Superbowl Sunday and that none if them knew about any plans to reopen (seems this was answered as “True” in blog comments)
    2) Gabe immediately took off to Chicago with no one knowing if he was going to return or not. Did Gabe really fly to Chicago right after laying off his employees? Seems odd for someone trying to save a business.
    3) That he was using the kitchen downtown *but not paying rent*. If that’s true, then lets stop the comments about losing the kitchen space. If he had a lease *AND* was current on payments…then it does suck. Seems odd that a landlord would kick out a good tenant…even one with ducks…in this economy with such high vacancy rates unless the wrecking ball was coming the very next week.

    I feel sorry for Heidi and their kids. What a mess!

  • Liza April 2, 2010 (1:44 pm)

    I am not even going to bother reading any more of the negative comments on here as it all seems a bit long winded and unnecessary.

    I wish Chef Claycamp, his new crew and the Swinery (and their bacon!!!) the best of luck in this re-opening venture and will continue to tell my friends, family, co-workers and strangers about it until I am blue in the face and can not speak any longer…

    Long live bacon!!! (And more importantly small businesses with creative, talented and strong individuals who are willing to keep moving forward and support our communities through sustainable means!)

    To success!

    Oh and before I forget — thank you to the author of the article and the WSB for a great site and wonderful amounts of information…

  • Mr. E. Meat April 2, 2010 (2:54 pm)

    I think Gabriel’s own comment on here pretty much sums up this guys lack of concern for his costumers, employees and even his supporters.

  • D April 2, 2010 (2:59 pm)

    Exactly, Bruce. He always seems to have money to start new ventures, but never enough to pay those he owes. Even his friends.

  • sam April 2, 2010 (3:18 pm)

    D & J, others: not defending this business/ owner – I don’t know him, have never set foot in the place, and maybe will eventually, who knows.

    there are a lot of people that get on their high horse and criticize everyone else, but don’t follow through on their principles on everything else that they do. (myself included)

    do you investigate every company that you do business with? to make sure that your t-shirt wasn’t made by a little child working 16 hour days with only 2 breaks, that stuff wasn’t made in a country without a lot of oversight or regulation, just to make a product cheap (and if a company does break the rules, the person in charge is executed ?), etc.. brings to mind a 20 minute “discussion” I had in a store with the better half trying to find a kitchen drain strainer that wasn’t a piece of cheap junk

    “Whatever he has, he has at the expense of others.” – from earlier comment.
    same goes for a lot of the other stuff you buy, unfortunately. in this case, the ‘others’ could be your neighbors, friends, yourself, instead of an unknown person far away.

    at least in this swinery case, hopefully there is some legal recourse for vendors who’ve been ripped off.

  • D April 2, 2010 (4:07 pm)

    Sam, since you asked directly, I do try to be an informed consumer, and part of that effort is reading WSB. I don’t fully investigate every company I do business with, but when I am aware of valid information (as I am here) I absolutely consider it when deciding how to spend my money. I don’t blindly support business owners when I AM aware that they engage in business practices I find irresponsible (or worse). If you read my first post, you’ll see my main concern is that this particular person has been given a public podium to whine about what other business owners deal with regularly. And yes, that podium is effectively an advertisement. I find it offensive that he gets free advertising when so many others are still waiting to be paid.

  • cjboffoli April 2, 2010 (4:42 pm)

    D: Couldn’t disagree more with your assessment. Claycamp wasn’t whining to anyone. I went and asked him what was going on and he told me. I’ve thought for a long time that what he has been doing with food is interesting. And so I’ve been following his story for years and, through the kindness of the publishers of the WSB, I’ve been writing about it here. Anyone that doesn’t think it is interesting can skip articles like this. But I personally think there can be much more value in people talking about mistakes than there can be in them talking about how perfect they are. Thomas Edison’s or the Wright Brothers’ numerous failures are just as interesting as the eventual designs that worked. Their discussion of them wouldn’t be whining, but an exploration of the path to success. Too often entrepreneurs and businesses try to gloss over and hide their mistakes. It shows a lot of character for Claycamp to be honest about his.
    Neither I nor the WSB has received one red cent (either in dollars or free product) as a result of this coverage, which in my mind prevents it from being construed as an advertisement any more than our coverage of a parade is an advertisement for floats and marching bands.

  • rw April 2, 2010 (4:43 pm)

    Chris and the rest of WSB,

    If one of the primary purposes of journalism is to promote discussion and debate, then I think you owe yourselves a really nice end of the week beer.


  • D April 2, 2010 (5:15 pm)

    I’m fine with us disagreeing, Chris. You’ve been respectful, and I am so thankful for this forum to discuss our disagreements. I didn’t mean to imply that WSB was getting advertising dollars for the article, just that the Swinery was getting advertising as a result of it (and still is, thanks in part to me). I do find that troubling.
    But you’re comparing this guy to Thomas Edison & the Wright Brothers? Wow. I guess if I learned their failures were actually failures to pay employees and other people they owed, or failures to get permits they knew they had to get, I’d avoid supporting them too. I’ll definitely do that for Claycamp.

  • J April 2, 2010 (5:38 pm)

    Haha! Wow! Comparing Gabe to Edison and the Wright brothers?! I think someone is in love.

  • cjboffoli April 2, 2010 (5:49 pm)

    D: Not directly comparing Claycamp to Edison and the Wright Brothers. But comparing the creative process, of working to create something you believe in, making mistakes and not having so much ego that you can’t discuss those mistakes when asked about them.
    I expect that anyone commenting here, myself included, can relate to the very human experiences of screwing something up royally, of reaching beyond our own grasp and stumbling, of being well-intentioned but making totally the wrong decision, and occasionally being at the mercy of things that are beyond your control. Not all of us have to fail in a public forum though. But I’m sure I’ve been Gabriel Claycamp before in my life in some way or another.
    And I think you mean attention or exposure where you’ve used advertising. Fair enough. Tens of thousands of people have potentially seen this story by now. And it would have been far worse if no one had read or commented on this story when in fact it has produced a vibrant discussion. But it seems some have made a decision not patronize his business, while still others have decided they will.
    If I hear you correctly, you feel strongly about not supporting Claycamp and not patronizing the Swinery because you don’t support his business practices and don’t approve of him falling behind on his financial commitments to his purveyors and previous investors. But it is a bit more complicated than that, isn’t it? By purchasing meat at the Swinery you are supporting a local business and its employees, supporting small local family farms as opposed to massive, potentially inhumane feed lots in a distant state, and providing him with the means to more readily pay off those he still owes money. It seems ironic to me that your refusal to support this local business is a step towards encouraging its failure when in fact, most of the people affected by the failure will not be Claycamp himself.

  • Sam April 2, 2010 (6:14 pm)


    Seems his wife, and business partner has also been busy trying to spin things as their “communications consultant.” Tisk-tisk.”

    Jacob — yea! Tisk-tisk for a wife who has her own business and chooses to voice her opinion to support her husband. Tisk-tisk indeed! How dare there be love and support! I am disgusted!! Aren’t you?!

    ____ Are you kidding?!

    Chef Claycamp is my new Thomas Edison. *swoon!* and I will support his efforts to the bitter end to counter the negative information discussed here. I will happily give him my hard earned money so that he may pay back “those he owes” and help him to move forward to create a successful, profitable, sustainable business and give him the opportunity to do what he knows is right. (And I get to serve my wife and kids amazing proteins?!!? Sweet!)

    He is a good person, means well and is very talented and I personally have eaten food by this man that changed my life… keep in mind, I have only had the pleasure of meeting this man twice.

    I encourage support and patronage of this business and look forward to many delicious meals ahead at the hands of Chef Claycamp, his staff, his debts and his downfalls.

    Success never tasted so good.


  • christopherboffoli April 2, 2010 (6:26 pm)

    Edison apparently went through more than 10,000 iterations of the filament in his incandescent lightbulb before he found one that worked. So maybe the comparison is not that far off. But he refused to call those attempts failures. The way he saw it, he just hadn’t succeeded yet but he was confident that he would succeed if he simply didn’t give up.
    As I understand it, Heidi Kenyon is no longer a business partner at the Swinery but has started her own company and is working as an independent contractor for the Swinery. There’s no obfuscation there. Just a change of roles.

  • Westy April 2, 2010 (6:32 pm)

    From The Swinery Facebook page…

    Swinery Meats Oh, thank you, thank you. You all make it easier to hold our heads up during the firestorm. We posted a humorous reply and even *that* didn’t go over well. Sheesh.
    Yesterday at 8:46pm

    Sheesh… How could a totally snide and condescending comment have not gone over well?

  • merguezfan April 2, 2010 (7:08 pm)

    Since all of the transgressions are being made public, I’d be interested to hear from employees and suppliers who have been stiffed by Claycamp. Seems to me we have a lot of people who are mad at him based on hearsay. Employees who are owed money should come forward and join the fray, no?
    But beyond that, cj touched on an important point. If everyone were to shun Claycamp, boycott his business, and never give him another chance, those people to whom he owed money would NEVER see it. Never. But if you give him a chance to keep going, maybe extending COD terms, maybe the suppliers have a chance at getting their money back eventually. As a small business owner who has had rough times in the past, I can tell you that if my suppliers had cut me off they’d have lost 100% of what I owed them. But by working with me they not only got their money back but also gained a loyal and reliable customer in the process.
    Regardless, like others have said, for me the issue is whether the product is good, worth the money, and whether the service is good. And it is. So haters keep hatin’ and I’ll have some delicious merguez for dinner tonight.

  • homesweethome April 2, 2010 (7:37 pm)

    enough with the coverage of this place…overrated.

  • Westy April 2, 2010 (8:15 pm)


    Let me start by saying cjboffoli takes wonderful pictures and seems to be a great guy. Lets hope birds of a feather don’t do what others say they do.
    Your comment about not supporting The Swinery being equal to not supporting the community or small farmers was totally untrue. What your saying is that I need to buy my meat from Gabriel (because of course he is the only guy in town selling this type of stuff) in order for my friends and people I count on for product to get there money back? I think I’d rather just pay my bills and continue to support local farmers and cut out the middle man. This guy will never pay people back and will hopefully just disappear into obscurity or better yet Vashon Island again. While I was not impressed with the first 99% of your last comment… I loved the ending. “most of the people affected by the failure will not be Claycamp himself.”
    Absolutely loved it. I’m not sure why we all wasted 100+ comments on this “article”. Christopher is obviously an excellent photographer and bright guy and Gabriel is an above average douche bag.

    One more time highlighted “most of the people affected by the failure will not be Claycamp.”

  • Ashley April 2, 2010 (10:24 pm)

    I f’in love West Seattle. I adore the WSB and I crave the bacon at the Swinery. I don’t know who the dude that you guys are all bitching about is but I’ll tell you what… It is the first bacon I haven’t burned. F”@$ the supermarkets. Go to the farmers markets, local butcher shops, small bakeries Enjoy what you eat!
    I feel fortunate to be a part of this whole debate. I live in a great neighborhood, in a great city, with great foods and a great outlook among people who give a s”@& about what they eat and where they spend their money.
    Anyway, Im headed there in the morning,
    more bacon and eggs for me.

  • dawsonct April 3, 2010 (1:10 am)

    Holy crap d, j, and the rest of you! I hope you show the same passion for that which makes you happy as you have for the Swinery and Claycamp, who apparently has had such a negative impact on your lives that you’ve spent the better part of the last two days bitching about it.

    You don’t need to patronize ANY business, and you don’t need justification.

  • d April 3, 2010 (1:44 am)

    dawsonct and anyone else who is confused about some ID’s –

    I am d, small letter.

    Someone else is writing as D, Capital letter. Two people. Very, very different people.

    Devil’s in the details.

  • CMP April 3, 2010 (6:54 am)

    The guy sounds more like Frank Lloyd Wright than Thomas Edison. More bacon for his adoring fans, this didn’t convince me to stop by the Swinery to buy some.

  • Cheryl April 3, 2010 (9:40 am)

    Wow, I’m always amazed at how many people can/will come out of the woodwork to slam Gabe & The Swinery…


    Chris & Tracy, I really enjoyed this article. It’s length was FINE and besides, you warned readers!


    As someone who is trying to get my own small home based business off the ground, I really really REALLY appreciated the content of this piece. I learned a LOT about the challenges of starting/operating a business, and was reminded that making excuses, no matter how legitimate, is NEVER good business practice. At least not in MY estimation. But then, I’m Old School that way. To me, when you’re running a business, of any kind, you should never blame outside forces on your inability to get sh*t done, including (and especially) when it comes to taking care of your customers and your employees. I’m SO tired of hearing business owners, managers, employees, etc. give me some spiel about how they aren’t at fault, it was their supplier, their sciatica, their childcare issues, their whatever… I don’t NEED to know the details. I just need to know what you’re going to do to make the situation RIGHT. Save the details, the whining, the finger pointing, etc. for your shrink.


    In any case, I’ve tried the bacon (& other items) at The Swinery when they were open those brief few months. I met and chatted w/ Gabriel & other staff while visiting, and they always seemed personable and knowledgeable, not to mention HELPFUL. Whether or not I go back now that they’re reopening remains to be seen, especially after reading this article, but the good news is that *I* get to make the choice based on my own internal moral compass.


    Again, thanks to Chris B., Tracy & Patrick, and the WSB for keeping our community informed AND entertained. I cannot imagine life here w/o them. :-)

  • dawsonct April 3, 2010 (10:51 am)

    Sorry for lumping you in with upper case D, lower case d.
    My point stands, I’ll just exclude you in my scorn for people who spend so much time/energy on a subject that obviously holds no appeal for them, other than, apparently, the ability to feel superior.

  • Lynne April 3, 2010 (1:04 pm)

    What’s the record for comments, WSB?!

  • (required) April 3, 2010 (1:55 pm)

    Agree 100%, Cheryl. WSB is doing a really phenomenal job of writing detailed and timely pieces with the professionalism you would expect from the greatest newspapers (well, back in the days when there were newspapers, at least.) I also don’t think this story spills too much ink. It only took me ten minutes to read, and it was thorough in a satisfying way. Obviousy, WSB took lots longer than ten minutes to get this great piece of investigative journalism to us, and for that, we ought to all be grateful. VERY grateful. WSB, you guys really rock! Well done, once again. And ignore the naysayers, WSB. You’re setting great standards for community blogs — and this piece was journalism of the highest caliber. Thank you! So if you have the time for more, bring it on! (Hint hint: being a pizza fan myself, may I suggest you consider a Talarico’s or Zeek’s inside story next, perhaps?)

  • Joeylamblocked April 3, 2010 (6:11 pm)

    Talk is cheap poeple, it’s all about actions. Stop talking smack and do something. If you as me, I’d say it take quite a man to get knocked out and come back up swinging. Thats Mr. Claycamp. He’s still slugging it out and making things happen. So shame on all the nay sayers, because i think your scared. Brave behind that keyboard, but cowards all the same.

    P.s. Have a good time supporting the corperations that REALLY care about employees and suppliers. I’m sure they have really great upstanding relationships with you too.

  • Mossy Rock April 3, 2010 (6:50 pm)

    I don’t know Gabe or Christopher but appreciate both The Swinery and the West Seattle Blog. Patronage of both is totally voluntary.
    I don’t think I am the only resident of West Seattle who is happy to see businesses of this kind open “over here”, instead of always “over there” – Ballard, Capital Hill, Madison Park, etc.
    If West Seattleites remain crabby, mean-spirited and provincial, then we will forever be stuck with mediocre Food Services of America type restaurants that serve the same food… chicken wings, Caesar salad, nachos, etc.

    I am the grand-daughter of a pioneer West Seattle businessman and booster who has long since passed away, but I have to believe that if my grandpa were alive he would be supporting anyone trying to produce a unique, high-quality, sustainable product with local suppliers in West Seattle.

    Finally, the bottom line is that I have tasted the bacon and it is simply awesome. I served the pâté on New Year’s Eve and everyone raved about it. Good luck to The Swinery.

  • Joeylamblocked April 3, 2010 (8:17 pm)

    My phone spells worse than I. So judgement passed should be upon my phone not me.

  • Local Chef April 4, 2010 (12:41 am)

    Lost in all of this banter is the fact that the bacon sucks! Gabe’s arrogance is only surpassed by his lack of knowledge in proper meat handling and curing techniques. CIA educated or not, I’ve had his bacon, pastrami, and other offerings, they are all sub par. Not only do they taste horrid, but Gabe’s has serious deficiencies in proper, and safe, methods of curing and preparin meat. Why do you think the health department is all over this guy, it’s not because of glass jars, I’ll tell you that much.

  • grr April 4, 2010 (2:27 am)

    Local Chef..do you have similar products that we can buy to do a comparison? I’ve had nothing buy exquisite tasting products from the Swinery. Please point us to your place of business so we can compare.

  • Ashley T. April 4, 2010 (3:16 am)

    Yeah — to “Local Chef” — can you compare? I just had some of his smoked beef tonight and it was exquisite, savory and a wonderful blend of salty, sweet and smokey — WHAT A MOUTH FULL!

    I will admit that there are things at the Swinery that I wouldn’t consider eating but to that end it is only because I am a big baby and couldn’t bare the thought of eating a precious little bunny rabbit.

    Happy Easter!

  • dawsonct April 4, 2010 (3:26 am)

    Huh, well, I guess it’s a matter of taste Local Chef. I, too, am a local chef and I think the bacon is effing GREAT. Not over seasoned and sliced precisely right so it actually gets perfectly crisp without being too chewy or dry. For me, it is candy. Everything else I have purchased from them has been very satisfactory.

    If you can make better bacon, please do! If you know of some other bacon currently available to the general public that is so much better, quit holding out. I like Zoe’s, but not exactly easy to get except to those of us in the industry.

    Don’t be so frickin’ abstruse.

  • odroku April 4, 2010 (11:00 am)

    Has anyone sincerely read all 100+ comments here? That’s a lot.

    I’ve been to the Swinery and have enjoyed it. Live nearby. Glad they’ve reopened. Unfortunate if behind-the-scenes issues have caused others problems. Oh well.

  • grr April 4, 2010 (11:11 am)

    We’ll travel to the ends of the earth (ok..maybe as far as Kent) for some damn good bacon.


  • kelly April 4, 2010 (9:44 pm)

    Christopher, how can you not call yourself a freind when you post on Gabe’s personal and business facebook pages? There’s a thread on the Swinery facebook page regarding this article. You posted in the thread on 4/1. I think it clearly shows your lack of objectivity:

    “Christopher Boffoli I agree that it showed a lot of character for Gabe to be so forthcoming. I also agree that the products are good. It is important to remember that 50,000 unique visitors could read the West Seattle Blog on any given day. But only a fraction of people comment. It is too easy for people to anonymously hate on the Net. And the negative comments are hard to take when they’re directed at you. But in my mind it would be FAR worse to be ignored. It is ultimately a good thing to stir things up.”

    Calling people “anonymous haters” when they’re expressing their opinions – some of these people clearly have had bad experiences with Gabe. Not objective.

    It’s “good to stir things up”? Good god, man. Give it a rest. We’re sick of hearing all about Gabe and his ridiculous backpedaling.

  • merguezfan April 4, 2010 (11:05 pm)

    If I’m sick of a topic I usually avoid reading about it.

    I especially wouldn’t bother reading a 130+ post thread about it.


  • SMS April 4, 2010 (11:21 pm)

    Dude, I know some people have it out for Gabe (some for good reason, I’m sure), but give Christopher a break. He’s just doing a story on a subject he obviously finds interesting and thinks others may too. I thought the story was well-written and informative, with both positive AND critical information. People who don’t want to hear about it should probably not waste their time reading long articles on it, then searching about it on Facebook. You can’t necessarily make others give it a rest, but it’s pretty easy to give it a rest yourself.

  • kelly April 5, 2010 (7:26 am)

    Hey, merguezfan and SMS. This is a public forum and I get to have my opinion, too. ;-)

  • JanS April 5, 2010 (3:56 pm)

    kelly…I’m also a “friend” on the Swinery facebook page. I have made comments on there. I have had his products (love the bacon). I have never met the man…so, would you also consider me biased towards him? Just curious here.

  • kelly April 5, 2010 (7:52 pm)

    JanS. Yes, I would consider you biased towards him – but that’s not a negative. That just means that you like his products. That’s great, enjoy!
    However, you’re a private citizen, not the writer who repeatedly writes 3,000 word pieces where the subject is allowed to whine repeatedly about issues that any business deals with. That’s the writer and editor’s choice, fine. But when the writer then writes a sympathetic post condemning “anonymous haters” and stating that “it’s good to stir things up” on that business’s blog, it’s a step over the line of journalistic objectivity and neutrality. Any Journalism school will tell you the same. I know the one I went to did.

  • Erica April 6, 2010 (3:26 pm)

    Dear Bacon.

    I love you. I love you even more knowing that you were properly created by the Swinery and are benefiting my community.

    Thanks a ton! See (eat) you soon.

    Love Erica.

  • Donolectic April 7, 2010 (3:07 pm)

    First off, this was a great story and completely fascinating. The comments added their own passionate dimension to it. Great job Christopher and big thanks to WSB for sticking with you and putting up a robust defense.

    To D, j, Kelly, and the Mystery Meat – damn some serious haters here. We get it, you loathe him and you think that anyone who thinks otherwise is an idiot. Thank you for your opinion and realize that the most whining I read in this whole article came from your comments. Also Kelly, I’m pretty sure that Christopher is also a “private citizen.” Apparently your journalism “school” didn’t teach you much.

  • kelly April 7, 2010 (5:54 pm)

    Donolectic, I did not say that I thought anyone was an idiot for their opinion. Some people like Gabe, some don’t. Whatever.
    Anyone who is paid for their writing is a journalist, and should conduct themselves accordingly.
    And thank you for saying that my journalism school didn’t teach me much. I’ll be sure to pass your comment along to my teachers at Columbia.

  • christopherboffoli April 9, 2010 (5:08 pm)


    Further to the recent comparisons between the West Seattle Blog and the New York Times, it seems the latter has taken the former’s lead by taking a closer look as this interesting West Seattle chef. Hmm. I wonder if the Times reporter will be equally as pilloried for also refusing to do a pure hit piece on Claycamp. ;-)

    PS: I’ve had the Swinery’s house-made bresaola and highly recommend it, served with arugula and a drizzle of grassy olive oil.

  • bruce king April 10, 2010 (9:15 am)

    The ny times article claims that they’re doing only whole animals — which they’ve stopped doing.
    It also says that they only source animals from farms less than 300 miles away that “raise just 50 to 100 animals” which they apparently don’t do.
    It further states that the problems in supply are due to “the farmers inability to deliver animals on time”. My impression that the problem was the farmers not being paid for the animals they did deliver. If you don’t get paid for your product you don’t deliver your product.

    The article states that claycamp “…began peddling his links at the farmers market…” but I don’t recall him ever actually selling stuff at the farmers market. Lots of press about it, promises he would, but he never did that in my recollection.

    I was in an article in the NY times about the on-farm slaughter classes I teach. As part of that interview process was called by two different fact-checking people after the initial interview. The ny times, in my experience is very careful about what they print. I’m wondering if they did any fact checking on this article at all?

  • bruce king April 10, 2010 (9:21 am)

    I’ve posted a comment to the ny times article; wonder if they will post it? Heres the text:

    Readers might find the discussion of Mr. Claycamps operation in a local business blog interesting. You’ll find it at


    There are more than 140 comments from locals about this operation. Several of the statements made in this NY times article seem to be mistaken regarding Mr. Claycamps practices. You’ll find details there.”

  • Erica April 10, 2010 (9:56 am)

    Blah blah blah.

    Just when you started to think people would stop bitching about it — there you go again.

    Celebrate success! The New York times recognizes his skill and innovation and I applaud the article. Wonderfully well written and I would guess (and assume) “fact checked”. It is the New York Times after all.

  • bruce king April 10, 2010 (9:15 pm)

    The nytimes is not posting comments made to that article. Mine is there, waiting moderation with (presumably) other comments.

  • cjboffoli April 10, 2010 (10:49 pm)

    bruce: Claycamp has apparently sold his products at both the Carnation and Vashon farmer’s markets. I have been told that he has not participated in the West Seattle farmer’s market due to lack of vendor space and the required (portable) mechanical refrigeration unit which would cost him upwards of $1,000.

    And though it was not mentioned in my article, Claycamp and I did discuss an apparently widespread issue that small local meat producers are having with the lack of availability of USDA certified mobile slaughter. Claycamp told me about a cooperative of Vashon Island farmers who each paid $5,000 for a share of a new mobile slaughter unit (MSU), modeled after a similar unit used on Lopez Island. But the people building the MSU got too ambitious with the design and ended up making it too big and heavy to be allowed on the Vashon Ferry. Shortly before the Swinery committed to sourcing beef from Thundering Hooves, they were close to choosing a small family farm near Enumclaw. But potential issues with mobile slaughter apparently led him to go with the former.

  • bruce king April 11, 2010 (2:03 pm)

    cjboffoli; The point i’m making is that most of the facts offered in the ny times article are incorrect. This article here is more factually sound.

    I don’t mind people having goals, or even changing their operations to meet market requirements. What I don’t like is when they continue to claim that they’re doing what they no longer do.

    And to say that $1,000 was too high a barrier to cross seems odd when he claims to have spent $350k on a remodel — 1% of 350k is 3500.

    I’m a farmer. The mobile slaughter is one way to deal with supplying USDA inspected meat for retail sale, but not the only one. There are four USDA slaughterhouses operating around here, and yes, it’s a pain in the ass to drive for a few hours, but perfectly doable.

    Regarding the weight issue and the vashon mobile slaughter — can you source that? I’d like to talk to someone involved with the project. At this point I’m a bit skeptical of claims originating from Claycamp.

  • cjboffoli April 12, 2010 (10:28 am)

    bruce: The raw cost of the mobile refrigeration was probably not the only metric Claycamp was reconciling. I expect that he was probably weighing the ROI in light of the fact that the only slots opening up at the West Seattle Farmer’s Market were on summer weekends when other vendors dropped out due to lower foot traffic.
    Farmers most focused on local/sustainable meat production seem to feel that it is much more humane to have the mobile slaughter come to the farm as transporting livestock to a slaughterhouse can be significantly more stressful for the animals. As more than 1,500 local slaughterhouses have closed in recent decades, many are now saying that one of the greatest challenges to the local meat movement is the bottleneck created by the lack of capacity with slaughterhouses (principally those construed as humane).
    The reported Vashon Island cooperative issue seems under-reported at this time. I may just have to help remedy that with a future article but that may have to appear elsewhere as the West Seattle Blog may not be the best venue for that discussion.
    Here are just a couple of articles, one from the New York Times which discusses the nationwide issue with slaughter capacity, and one from Food Change that is relevant to Lopez Island, WA.

  • Donolectic April 12, 2010 (11:14 am)

    Whatever indeed. I was using hyperbole. I also haven’t been to journalism school but I know what a private citizen is. As for your name dropping (how classy!) perhaps the answer you’ll get back is “well you can lead a horse to water…”
    I’m done. :)

  • kelly April 12, 2010 (1:16 pm)


    You were the one disapraging me and my college. My response was to correct your incorrect information. If you can’t handle it, don’t give nasty replies, because you will get it back.

    Have a nice day! :-)

  • Ashley T. April 12, 2010 (1:22 pm)

    I am just curious: Bruce King, where are you getting your information?

  • A Butcher April 13, 2010 (7:35 am)

    I find this article funny since I remember the ad that was placed on craigslist when the swinery was first looking for help. It was one of those snarky ads that said something to the effect of “no first timers, home enthusiasts, or did some projects in culinary school” then to find out they are really just a bunch of hacks trying to figure it out. I distinctly remember that attitude putting me off from wanting to apply. Ahhh yes nice article worth a few laughs and interesting to boot.

  • Bruce king April 13, 2010 (8:30 am)

    Not sure what information you’d like me to source. I’m a farmer and slaughter animals every week; with respect to slaughter regulations and resources, direct experience. I slaughtered a steer and three pigs on Saturday, for instance. Check ny blog for pics of the steer.
    I’ve followed claycamp closely for a couple of years. I took a multiday class from him just prior to the culinary comm closing and I’ve watched with interest his discussion of his farmers market attempts and his operations in general. I produce meat and am always interested in another way to sell it.

  • Bruce king April 13, 2010 (8:36 am)

    The mobile slaughter just substitutes one bottleneck for another. I know better than most the challenges of getting meat to market and I’ll point out that there are many good farms that have done so now and many of them are at your local farmers market.

    I don’t recall claycamp selling at any farmers market. Which one and for how long?

  • kelly April 20, 2010 (9:59 am)

    Well, look at this. Other butcher shops are opening in town without any drama at all:


    How on earth do they do it?!

  • JBL April 23, 2010 (12:29 pm)

    Kelly: It’s not that had when you know what you’re doing

Sorry, comment time is over.