New Zealand’s top retail butcher and butcher apprentice were announced last night in one of the most anticipated events on the home meat industry calendar.
Reuben Sharples from Aussie Butcher New Lynn was named Alto Butcher of the Year and Samantha Weller from New World Rangiora took out the title of Competenz Butcher Apprentice of the Year.
Following three highly competitive regional competitions in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, 10 finalists from each category went head to head in the Grand Final held at Shed 10 in Auckland earlier today.
Finalists in both competitions faced a practical cutting test in which they had just two hours to break down a size 20 chicken, beef sirloin and pork shoulder into a themed display of value-added products. Finalists were also presented a mystery cut, a large turkey, to breakdown within the time limit.
This year’s competition was particularly fierce, being the first year that entrants over 30 years were welcomed to enter the Alto Butcher of the Year category, allowing both butchers who are fairly new to the trade, and those with many years of experience, to get involved and see how they stacked up against their peers.
Head judge, Matt Grimes, has been involved with the competition for over 10 years and believes removing the age limit ultimately raised the bar in all areas of the competition.
“The attention to detail and focus on creativity and cookability from the butchers this year has been very impressive; applying an open age limit has inspired the younger in the competition with a level to strive towards, it allows them to see just how great a career path in butchery can be,” says Grimes.
Sharples who took out the Alto Butcher of the Year category says the win means so much more to him than just a personal achievement. “I’m hugely passionate about this industry, I love what I do and it feels great to be recognised for it. I’m looking forward to the study tour and I know the experience I gain from
it is going to be hugely beneficial for not only me but my staff too,” he says.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Competenz Butcher Apprentice category provides an invaluable opportunity for those just starting out in the industry.
Grimes has seen the benefits first hand and it’s part of what keeps him coming back to his role as head judge year after year.
“Making it to the finals provides those beginning their careers with a huge sense of achievement, as well as a massive boost to their career and future employment opportunities, the networking is invaluable,” says Grimes.
Samantha Weller will now go forward to join the ANZCO Young Butchers of New Zealand, a team that is also comprised of both last year’s competition winners to represent New Zealand at the World Butcher’s Young Butcher and Apprentice Challenge competitions in 2018.
Sharples and Weller also received their winner’s prize of an International Study Tour in 2018 to Ireland, joining the New Zealand delegation travelling to support our national butchery team, the Pure South Sharp Blacks as they compete in the 2018 World Butchers’ Challenge.
Dan Klink from Mangawhai Meat Shop was name the Alto Butcher of the Year runner up and Dylan Ohlson from New World Rangiora was named Competenz Butcher Apprentice of Year runner up.
The competition is supported by Alto Packaging, Competenz, Wilson Hellaby, Alliance Group, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, Dunninghams, Hellers, Kerry Ingredients, New Zealand Pork and Tegel.