Article and photography by Fitz
Lead photo of Dylan and Dana Wakefield inside Pendulum
One approach in weighing the talent of a craftsman is to keep note of the skill level of those that seek them out for training and advice. Dylan Wakefield, co-owner and butcher at Pendulum Fine Meats in Ghent has both taught classes and been sought for advice by some of the best culinary talent working in Hampton Roads. David Hannah (Chef at Stoley’s), Ian Hock (Chef at Shiptown), Ross Riddle (Former Owner, Chef at Hashi food truck), Kevin Ordonez (Owner, Chef at Alkaline) and Matt Hayes (Owner, Chef at The Cutting Edge) are all on the list. For Dylan, the former eight-year Navy cook and Culinary Institute of America in New York fellow, imparting technical knowledge and advice under the Pendulum banner is a continuation of his life’s work.
It’s often the case that behind some of the best artists and craftsmen you will find a great woman. Well, I wouldn’t say Dylan’s wife of 16 years, Dana Wakefield is behind him, more at his side. The self-described “workaholic”, math teacher with Norfolk Public Schools and co-owner of the couple’s labor of love, handles, among other things, the front of the house during lunch, their CSA, and the accounting books. Possibly most compelling, she has an authentic passion for the promotion of ethically treated animals for food.
I’m not going to spend the ink space getting into an ethics debate with vegan advocates here. What I will say is Dana and Dylan are about quality meat. It’s why free smells should be their lunch tag line not the Simba Hunter’s at Jimmy John’s. As Dylan explained to me, “You can tell when an animal is under stress. The meat is more pale and wet; it doesn’t taste as good.” Dana further explained, “This is why we go by the Animal Welfare Certification and Dylan meets with and picks up the animals from the farmers.” Ultimately, the highest quality proteins are what Dylan wants to work with, period. It’s what a true craftsman demands.
Describing him as such, by the way, is not a cheap attempt to pander. In Norfolk, likely the whole of Hampton Roads, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who can break down an animal with the speed and precision he can. I shadowed him while he broke down half of a hog recently and had to hustle just to keep up with documenting it. In fact, my knees took a beating crouching and squatting to get low enough to focus my lens on his eyes–sharply focused and bearing down on his work. Specifically, the process of watching him extract and reveal the crown roast was impressive. From the lowest of angles, I shot his hands gliding and working across the hog. His sharp eyes were constantly scanning as I clicked my shutter, constantly searching for the right “balance”, the right, “clean and enticing lines that are appealing to the eye” as he explained to me he’s looking for when he draws out that cut.
Behind the care for the product, behind the classes and mentorship, behind the cultivation of close relationships with the farmers and the personal pickup of the animals is a strongly held belief by the Wakefields that Norfolk deserves this. Everyone who owns a business has to invest and dedicate a large portion of themselves to it to make it run. I think with Dylan and Dana it’s as much a continuation of who they are as it is their business. They’re teachers, perched above their business in their apartment, who, through Pendulum, are cultivating a food environment high in standards and rich in the exchange of ideas.
For more on Pendulum visit them online at pendulummeats.com
Pendulum is located at 820 Shirley Ave. in Norfolk’s Historic Ghent