The National Butchery Awards held on Thursday not only showcased the finest in meat craftsmanship but also bore witness to the rise of a new wave of talent in the industry.
Luka Young, hailing from PAK'nSAVE Kaitaia, emerged victorious with the prestigious Pact Packaging Young Butcher of the Year title. Young's journey to success was marked by determination and resilience, having entered the competition multiple times.
"I knew if I kept backing myself it would pay off," he said.
His experience and creativity proved to be defining factors, and he credited the mentorship of Hellers Sharp Blacks Captain Riki Kerekere for his remarkable achievement.
In a parallel triumph, Morgan Moore of New World in Motueka was crowned the ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentice of the Year. Reflecting on her win, Moore humbly acknowledged her supporters.
"I didn't win this for me, I won for everybody who’s got me here."
Her recognition marks a significant milestone, offering a shining beacon of opportunity for those embarking on their journey in the industry.
The path to glory was paved through rigorous regional competitions in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin. The Grand Final competition witnessed six regional finalists in each category, including a wildcard entry, battling it out in a two-hour cutting test that demanded not only technical finesse but also artistic flair. Competitors faced the daunting task of breaking down a diverse range of meats into an array of value-added products, all under the watchful gaze of eight discerning judges.
Peter Martin, Head Judge and Butchery Training Advisor at Skills4Work in Auckland commended the remarkable talent on display.
"The winners did a fantastic job, put up a good display and did it with good technique," he noted, reflecting on the intricacies that separated the best from the rest.
The butchery world's pinnacle, the Pure South Master Butcher Teams Challenge, witnessed teams of three master butchers employing their finely honed skills to create intricate displays from whole lamb and beef hindquarters.
Team Cowboys, composed of James Smith (The Tattooed Butcher), Craig Haize, and Charles Compston from Franklin Meats, emerged victorious with a cutting-edge display that earned them a perfect score. James Smith's leadership and the team's impeccable teamwork set a new benchmark in the competition's history.
With these accolades, the winners aren't just basking in the glory of their triumphs. The Pact Packaging Young Butcher of the Year and ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentice of the Year are bestowed with the honour of representing New Zealand at the World Butchers' Challenge in Paris 2025, an opportunity to showcase their skills on a global stage.
The Pure South Master Butcher team's victory is accompanied by both the revered competition trophy and well-deserved prize money.