Butchers from across the lower North Island sharpened their knives and cut their way through a two-hour competition in the regional stages of the 2019 Alto Butcher and ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentice of the Year.
It was a close call, but after a fierce competition Makalah Stevens from New World Foxton claimed first spot in the ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentice of the Year category and Simon Dixon from Island Bay Butchery placed first in the Alto Butcher of the Year category.
This was the second regional competition in a national series to compete in a Grand Final showdown in August to crown New Zealand’s top butchers, culminating in a glitzy dinner – a highlight of the industry’s year. The Lower North Island competition involved the butchers breaking down a size 16 chicken, a boneless beef rump and a full pork loin into a display of value-added products.
Makalah Stevens has been the dominant force in this competition, having recorded her third straight victory in the Lower North Island regional. Makalah is delighted to have taken out the title for every year of her apprenticeship and next year when she graduates, she will set her sights on the Butcher of the Year title.
“I’m really pleased to have won this regional again. I’ve been practicing every week, working on my attention to detail and organisation which I think has really helped me against the other competitors, who were really good. For the final I need to keep focusing on my speed and there were a few things I know I mucked up, so I can go away and work on these.”
Simon Dixon has been a butcher since the age of 14 and is no stranger to success in this competition having finished second overall at the Grand Final last year.
“I was really surprised to win, looking around at some of the other guy’s displays they looked amazing – so I am really happy about it. I like to be creative with ideas, think outside the box. I spend a lot of time researching, particularly European stores and I find something I like and tweak it to my own style.
“Looking ahead to the final, I know I’ve got to work on keeping my area tidier and more organised, I got a few bits of feedback from Corey (head judge), so I need to focus on them over the next few weeks.”
Dixon and Stevens will now continue on to the Grand Final, on Thursday 8 August in Auckland, where they will further showcase their cutting skills, creativity and knowledge of the trade against the best in the country.
Head judge and captain of New Zealand’s Butchery team, the Hellers Sharp Blacks, Corey Winder has been involved in the competition for 20 years now and says the skills needed to become a great butcher are ever-growing.
“It’s inspirational to see so many apprentices and butchers showing up at competition level. It not only increases their skill set and gives them the opportunity to network with their peers, but gives them the confidence to look to the future and the possibility of one day competing at an International Level at the World Butchers’ Challenge,” says Winder.
“To have the motivation and drive to showcase their skills at this level means the New Zealand butchery industry is in good hands with plenty of candidates setting their sights on becoming a member of the New Zealand butchery team, the Hellers Sharp Blacks, in the future.”
The 2019 butchers competition is proudly sponsored by Alto, ANZCO Foods, Wilson Hellaby, Alliance, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, Competenz, Dunninghams, Tegel and Hellers.
The dates for the remaining regionals are as follows:
- Lower South Island – Friday 28 June, Dunedin
- Upper South Island – Saturday 29 June, Christchurch