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Chef's Kiss | May/June 2024

By Cheryl Kepes

Photos courtesy Kelsi Retallick

Kelsi Retallick helps her family’s cattle operation expand into a new enterprise.

Championing the beef industry comes naturally for Kelsi Retallick. A science teacher by trade and rancher by birth, her life experiences uniquely equip her to promote the beef industry to naysayers. Kelsi’s strategy - she forgoes long lessons and lectures and simply serves people a tender, juicy steak. After a few bites of delicious Angus beef straight from Kelsi’s family farm, her audience is all ears.

Kelsi capitalizes on opportunities while working at her recently opened restaurant, Madison Street Steakhouse and Grill, in Lancaster, Wis. “I feel like I am contributing back to the industry in a way because you get to communicate with the public and some people who are not necessarily familiar with the product. For me, it is just another way to educate the public through the restaurant,” Kelsi Retallick shared.

Back to the Farm

Five years ago, Kelsi decided to leave her job as a science teacher in Iowa and return to help manage the family farm, 2K Cattle Enterprises, located in Glen Haven, Wis. Kelsi works alongside her parents, Kevin and Keri Retallick, to run the Angus seedstock operation focusing on producing high-quality Angus bulls and females, show calves, and feeder cattle.

2K Cattle Enterprises also serves as the sole source of the meat served at Madison Street Steakhouse and Grill. That means Kelsi is directly involved in all the breeding, raising, and feeding of the beef utilized in her restaurant.

“When someone is eating a steak, I can literally tell them which bull and cow it is out of, and which farm it was born on. It is pretty neat to have the ability to trace that back and explain the whole story to people and how long it takes from start to finish,” Kelsi said. “It is great to talk to people about it and educate them more and it really is amazing how much people do want to know and learn.”

Steakhouse and Grill

Three years ago, the Retallick family opened a butcher shop called, The Meat Schoppe, in Lancaster, Wis., as a natural expansion of their freezer beef business. In addition to selling fresh cuts of beef from animals bred, raised, and finished at 2K Cattle Enterprises, The Meat Schoppe serves lunch five days a week.

When the building connected to The Meat Schoppe became available the idea of opening a restaurant started to take root in Kelsi’s mind. The space had housed a café for years, and now it stood empty. Though it seemed like a perfect fit, Kelsi was hesitant at first. “I had been thinking about it. I didn’t say anything to anybody because I knew everyone’s reaction would be, ‘Are you crazy?’ But it seemed like another good avenue to market our product and our meat,” Kelsi shared.

Pushing away the thoughts of having too much on her plate to take on another business venture, Kelsi forged ahead. Madison Street Steakhouse and Grill opened its doors more than six months ago, and the restaurant is meeting and exceeding many of Kelsi’s expectations.

Working Together

The butcher shop and new restaurant are connected in the same building. The two businesses complement each other. “The Meat Shoppe and the restaurant really do go hand-in-hand. We can really utilize each other to get the most out of the product we are serving,” Kelsi said.

One benefit of the close relationship between the two businesses is the restaurant’s ability to consistently sell and serve a fresh product. “It is the same exact meat that I am serving at the restaurant that we sell at the Meat Schoppe, so we can utilize the steaks from the fresh case. I can use those over at the restaurant and so then every day we are keeping our product as fresh as possible,” Kelsi said.

And, if Kelsi ever gets in a pinch and runs out of steaks at the restaurant, she simply walks next door and cuts a few more.

Utilizing the Entire Beef

Most of the items on the menu at Madison Street Steakhouse and Grill are high-end steaks, which creates leftover trim. The restaurant works closely with The Meat Schoppe to make sure nothing is wasted. “Especially with the price of beef and how high everything is, from a business aspect, you have to make sure you are utilizing everything to the best of your capability,” Kelsi said.

The Meat Schoppe’s butcher incorporates the extra trim into products such as summer sausage and snack sticks. The ground beef gets utilized in a favorite lunch item at The Meat Schoppe – a smash burger.

The Retallicks even found avenues outside of their restaurant and butcher shop to market parts of their beef. Restaurants in the area purchase The Meat Schoppe’s ground beef for their menu items, and smaller butcher shops buy beef tallow and beef fat to make some of their products.

The Madison Street Steakhouse and Grill and The Meat Schoppe are intertwined together – seamlessly serving as advertisement for each other. “Customers come into the restaurant, and it is always really cool to hear, ‘Wow this is the best steak or one of the best steaks I have ever had.’ And then you can say, ‘Well, you can actually purchase this in the Meat Schoppe during the hours we are open over there.’ And then sometimes the people visiting the Meat Schoppe are interested to try the meat, so they come over to the restaurant,” Kelsi explained.

2K Cattle Enterprises

2K Cattle Enterprises is a diverse operation producing seedstock bulls and females, show calves, and feedlot animals. The Retallicks manage 250 Angus cows and host a bull and female sale every spring. Their show calves are typically produced from the ET work the Retallicks complete through a cooperator herd. Kelsi enjoys working with youth interested in showing Angus cattle, something she loved doing with her family growing up.

The Retallicks focus heavily on carcass traits when making breeding decisions for animals that will be utilized at the steakhouse and butcher shop: marbling and ribeye traits top the list. One challenge Kelsi is fine-tuning is having the perfect number of fat cattle ready at the right time. They currently process two to three feedlot animals a week.

Many times, Kelsi works as a chef, butcher, and herdsman all in the same day. Though it’s a constant balancing act, she says it’s worth it. And no matter what hat she’s wearing, Kelsi’s always looking for new ways to share insight and information about the beef business and the steps producers take to make it possible for consumers to enjoy the beef on their plate.

learn more at or - search for: “The Meat Schoppe” and “Madison Street Steakhouse and Grill"

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