Judges praised the high standards of butchery skills and creativity displayed by five finalists in the Welsh Craft Butcher of the Year final yesterday (Monday).
The contest was held on the first day of the Welsh International Culinary Championships (WICC) at the International Convention Centre Wales (ICC Wales), Newport. The event is open free of charge to the public and hospitality trade.
Sponsored by the Culinary Association of Wales (CAW) and Cambrian Training Company, the final brought together Ben Roberts, owner of Astley & Stratton Ltd, Farndon, near Chester; Philip Tucker from Tuckers Butchers, Mumbles; Ieuan Hughes from Golden Valley Meat & Game, Grosmont, Abergavenny; Ieuan Pincott from Oriel Jones, Canton, Cardiff and Elis Morris from Daniel Morris Butchers, Mold.
The butchers tackled two tasks to showcase their skills to judges, including Peter Rushforth and Craig Holly from the Craft Butchery Team Wales. They were given 30 minutes to cut a whole lamb into primal joints, as well as clean their work area.
For the second task, they had one hour and 20 minutes to produce a visually exciting display to merchandise the meat showcasing both their skills and creativity.
The competition could be a stepping stone to the Craft Butchery Team Wales, which includes five former Welsh Butcher of the Year or Welsh Young Butcher of the Year winners – Rushforth, Holly, Matthew Edwards, Tomi Jones and Dan Allen-Rafter.
The judges said they were delighted to see four first time finalists and were impressed by the high standard of butchery displayed in one of the closest competitions in years.
Roberts, a bronze medallist in the Champion Butcher Apprentice contest at the World Butcher Challenge 2022 in the USA, managed to find time to compete despite opening his first shop last week.
“It all went very well and I was pleased to finish on time,” he said. “I can’t wait to see what the judges’ opinion is.”
Tucker, having completed his second butchery competition, said: “It’s the first time I had put everything together, so I did run out of time.”
Another finalist to run out of time was Pincott, who lives in the Rhondda. “It’s the first time I have competed in front of people, so it was a bit stressful, but I would definitely like to do it again. I was happy with all the work I did.”
Another debutant, Morris said he had crammed his practice sessions into a few days, as he thought the competition was next month. “Everything went nearly to plan which was good considering I had only four days to practice,” he added.
Surveying his attractive display of meat products, Hughes had to overcome a problem with his mincer. “It was stressful, but I think I did alright,” he said.
Arwyn Watkins, OBE, CAW president and Cambrian Training Company’s executive chairman, said: “It was great to see these five talented Welsh butchers displaying their skills on the Welsh Craft Butcher of the Year platform.”
The winner will be announced at the WICC Awards Dinner on Wednesday evening. Tickets for the dinner arenow on sale at firstname.lastname@example.org costing £1,000 for tables of 12 or £100 for individuals.
The WICC’s headline sponsors are the Welsh Government, Castell Howell, Hybu Cig Cymru / Meat Promotion Wales, ICC Wales, Cambrian Training Company, Kentaur, Churchill, MCS Technical Products, Roller Grill, Radnor Hills, Dick Knifes, Cygnet Gin, Capital Cuisine, Ecolab, City & Guilds and Compass Cymru.
Ieuan Hughes from Golden Valley Meat & Game in action in the Welsh Craft Butcher of the Year final.
Judges running the rule over the butchers’ displays.