Well it’s a bi-annual three hour and fifteen minute competition with teams from across the globe competing for the title of the best butchers in the universe. Each of the 16 teams are given a side of beef, a side of pork, a whole lamb and five chickens which they must then transform into a themed display of value-added products, that are designed to inspire and push the boundaries, yet which are also cook-able and would sell in a retail setting. Independent judges score each team based on technique and skill, workmanship, product innovation, overall finish and presentation.
The competition began in 2011 and involved only New Zealand and Australia – at which time it was named the Trans-Tasman Test Match. Both countries nominated a team of their six best butchers, called the Sharp Blacks and the Australian Steelers respectively and the inaugural competition was held in New Zealand, with the Australian team taking home the first title. The following year, the competition moved to Melbourne, Australia, with the host country once again taking home the title of the best butchers in Australasia.
In 2013, a team of six from the United Kingdom made the long journey across the globe to Wanaka, New Zealand, to compete in the newly-titled Tri-Nation’s Butchers’ Challenge. It was this year which marked the beginning of a winning streak for the Sharp Blacks, as they were presented with their first trophy on home soil. 2014 saw New Zealand and Australia travel to Yorkshire, England, where they were enthusiastically welcomed by the British Beefeaters who were competing for their second time.
This year we have capped our countries at 16, including Australia, Canada, Brazil, South Africa and many others.
What I have been so lucky to be a part of is creating a community. And although I am so passionate about the competition as an event, I think the love comes from the community that sits underneath it. The World Butchers’ Challenge encourages connection. Butcher to butcher, peer to peer. Those in the meat industry, in particular butchers, are some of the most humble and hard-working people I know. They don’t want for much and they work around the clock for their families but also for the happiness of their customers. And thinking about the rock-stars we have created out of chefs, I don’t think they get the credit they deserve. So, part of my motivation with the World Butchers’ Challenge is to share these butchers and their talent off with the rest of the world.. And hence, it has become a personal mission to grow the global butchery community and create as many opportunities outside of the competition itself for the industry and those involved.
I would love nothing more to jump on a plane and try the menu for myself but my work in the Southern Hemisphere is keeping me extremely busy. We also have the Captain’s Run coming up in September in Sacramento so there is plenty of prep going on for that. I will 100% be sending a World Butchers’ Challenge representative in though to see what the team have created. Based on their previous performances, I know Londoners will be very impressed.
I’ve watched the competition each year since 2011 and every single time I am blown away by what these teams create. Each year I think to myself, surely there is the best it gets but each time I’m proved wrong and so I know 2020 is going to be an absolute game changer in terms of a fresh bunch of innovation for the craft.
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