Greg Egerton from Countdown Dunedin Central has won the prestigious Alto Butcher of the Year title and Cherise Redden from Countdown Meat & Seafood was crowned ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentice at the Grand Final which took place this week at Shed 10 in Auckland.
Greg Egerton is no stranger to the world of competitive butchery having previously been a member of New Zealand’s butchery team – the Hellers Sharp Blacks – competing most recently in Belfast last year.
Egerton said of his win: “Out of everything I’ve done in my career this feels the best. I did my apprenticeship 26 years ago, back then value added was crumbed schnitzel and meatballs. So, I’ve been there through the whole evolution. Winning this is brilliant.
“I’d like to thank my boss Paul Mason who challenged me to enter this and be an example to some of the apprentices. Without Paul’s support and encouragement this wouldn’t be possible, so this award is because of him.”
Following tightly fought regional competitions in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, involving over 44 competitors, the six butchers and eight apprentices in the two categories went head-to-head this afternoon in a battle of the butchers before the winners were announced at a glitzy awards dinner this evening.
The competitors were required to show their cutting skills in a two-hour test of skills, nerve and expertise. The Alto Butcher competitors were given all mystery cuts five minutes before the competition which included; an eleven-rib forequarter of lamb, a pork shoulder, a duck and a wild rabbit allowing them to create their ultimate wish-list of value-added cuts.
The ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentices were tasked with breaking down a size 16 chicken, a boneless beef rump, a full pork loin and a wild rabbit – as a mystery cut – into a themed display of value-added products. In addition to this, the apprentices were also expected to complete a 30 question, multiple choice exam and an interview with the judges as part of their route to glory.
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.
“The standard today is absolutely unbelievable. You have to take your hat off to the competitors in the Alto Butcher of the Year competition who didn’t know what cuts they would be getting until five minutes before the cutting test started. You walk along and look at these displays, it wows you that these butchers have come up with these ideas within a two-hour time frame – it’s outstanding.
“In terms of the ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentices taking part, looking at their displays actually gave me goosebumps. These butchers are Hellers Sharp Blacks in the making and to think some of them are only in the first year of their apprenticeship is remarkable – it blows me away.”
Alongside Corey Winder on the judging panel was Steve Newsome from Alliance Meats, Reuben Sharples from Aussie Butcher New Lynn, James Smith from PAK’nSAVE Pukekohe and Jarrod McGregor, Beef + Lamb NZ Ambassador Chef.
The ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentice category provides an invaluable opportunity for those just starting out in the industry. This was highlighted today by Cherise Redden – the runner up in last year’s competition – who said of her win: “Winning this award means so much – it opens doors and offers me career opportunities. I can’t wait to head over to Sacramento next year for the World Butchers’ Challenge.
“I’d like to thank Countdown for all their support and in particular my boss Riki Kerekere for being my inspiration.”
Aside from the glory and satisfaction of winning these respected awards, Greg Egerton and Cherise Redden will receive an all-expenses paid international study tour to Sacramento, a knife set courtesy of Victorinox and the coveted Alto Butcher or ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentice of the Year trophies. Cherise will also get a spot on the ANZCO Foods Young Butchers of New Zealand squad as part of the World Butchers’ Challenge in September 2020.
Brad Gillespie from New World Rototuna was named the Alto Butcher of the Year runner up and Makalah Stevens from New World Foxton was named the ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentice of the Year runner up.
Thanks to sponsors Alto Packaging, ANZCO Foods, Wilson Hellaby, Alliance, Beef & Lamb New Zealand, Dunninghams, Competenz, Tegel and Hellers.