New Zealand’s Top Butchers announced

New Zealand’s Top Butchers announced

Following an exhilarating event held at Auckland’s Evenfinda Stadium, the results from the prestigious National Butchery Awards have been unveiled.

Luka Young from PAK’nSAVE Kaitaia has won the esteemed Pact Packaging Young Butcher of the Year title and Morgan Moore from New World in Motueka was crowned ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentice of the Year.

Luka said that winning means everything to him after entering multiple times.

“I knew if I kept backing myself it would pay off,” says Young.  “I think my experience and creativity set me apart in the competition and especially the mentorship from Hellers Sharp Blacks Captain Riki Kerekere has helped immensely.”

Finalists were chosen from five regional competitions held during June and July in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin involving 11 Young Butcher competitors and 45 Butcher Apprentices. 

The Grand Final competition featured an impressive lineup of six regional finalists in each category which included a wild card entry. 

As knives were sharpened and bandsaws hummed, the stage was set for a spectacular battle of the butchers, captivating the audience of friends and family who watched the action unfold.

The two-hour cutting test required competitors to put their technical and creative skills to the ultimate test in front of a team of eight judges.  Both the Pact Packaging Young Butchers and the ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentices got their knives ready and set about boning, trimming, slicing and dicing as they broke down a size 20 chicken, a full pork loin, beef rump, a leg of lamb and a mystery cut of lamb rack into a display of value-added products.

In addition to this, the apprentices were also required to complete a multiple-choice exam and an interview with the judges, as part of their road to glory.

The ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentice category provides an invaluable opportunity for those just starting out in the industry.

Morgan Moore from New World in Motueka was crowned ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentice of the Year.

ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentice of the Year Morgan Moore was quick to acknowledge those that have supported her on her journey to victory. 

“It means everything to win this award, to be able come out on top with my family watching and knowing the support and effort that has gone into it. I didn’t win this for me, I won for everybody who’s got me here.”

Head Judge Peter Martin who is the Butchery Training Advisor at Skills4Work in Auckland, says this year’s competition showcased some excellent talent across all categories.

“Coming off the back of the regionals I knew this would be a hard competition to judge due to the high standard of competitors,” says Martin.  “It came down to very fine margins and not making errors.  The winners did a fantastic job, put up a good display and did it with good technique.”

At the other end of the spectrum was the Pure South Master Butcher Teams Challenge which is the chance for the masters of the industry to throw around some butcher banter and put their teamwork to the test to create the most elaborate display.

This year saw four teams of three qualified master butchers showcase their finely tuned craft with two hours to break down a whole lamb and a beef hindquarter.  It was a close contest but it was Team Cowboys; made up of James Smith, aka The Tattooed Butcher, Craig Haize and Charles Compston both from Franklin Meats, who claimed the top prize with a cutting edge display.

James Smith, who is has been a regular face at butchery competitions, led his team to a perfect score, a first for the competition.

“Winning the competition, and hearing we got a perfect score takes this night to another level.

“Last year we didn’t finish our display and came second, so we knew what we needed to do. This year we came in with the intention of finishing and doing something that really wowed everyone. The display came out really well, we worked really well as a team and overall, it made it a little bit more perfect.”

Head judge for the teams’ challenge, Todd Heller said the winning team broke an all-time record receiving the perfect score. 

“We were looking for excellent teamwork with a display at the end that was saleable and cookable, and that is what The Cowboys brought to the competition – they were faultless,” says Heller.

Alongside industry and peer recognition, the Pact Packaging Young Butcher of the Year and the ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentice of the Year will receive a coveted trophy and an all-expenses paid trip to Paris for the next World Butchers’ Challenge in 2025 with the opportunity to represent New Zealand as part of the ANZCO Foods Young Butchers of New Zealand team.

The winning Pure South Master Butcher team will receive the prestigious competition trophy plus prize money for the team.

The competition is proudly sponsored by Pact Packaging, ANZCO Foods, Pure South, Dunninghams, Hellers, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, Skills4Work, Tegel, Victory Knives, Wilson Hellaby, Anago, Rum and Que Cabernet Foods and NZ Pork.

For background information, a full competitor list and competition placings click here.

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