I have spent the last 12 years working on the Foodservice portfolio for Beef + Lamb New Zealand and during this time I have certainly met quite a few chefs. Since we took over the management of Retail Meat New Zealand eight years ago, I was pulled in on occasions to work with butchers and it’s been my observation that both chefs and butchers share a similar passion for their trade. Both strive to take the product grown by our farmers and transform it into an end product which is enjoyed by so many on a daily basis, whether it be in a home kitchen or a high-end restaurant.
The relationship between the farmer, the butcher and the chef is multifaceted but at the end of the day it all ends up on the consumer’s plate in some form. From a chef’s point of view they rely on their meat supplier to deliver a premium product so they can add their creative prowess and the perfect finishing touches to serve tasty and creative dishes showcasing the meat as the hero.
From a butcher’s point of view they strive for perfection in their trade by adding value to cuts to inspire customers to take something home that’s a little bit different. They also work hard to meet the demand from chefs who want something a little bit more out of the box to provide the wow factor on the plate. With the likes of bone marrow, offal and secondary cuts being popular on restaurant menus, the relationship between butcher and chef has grown into more of a partnership where the philosophy of using the whole animal or ‘nose-to-tail’ is shared by both trades.
Gender also shares similarities when it comes to chefs and butchers. They are both largely male dominated industries, however for the women who do venture into a chef or butchery apprenticeship the rewards of making a successful career are huge. We have the likes of our Beef and Lamb Ambassador Chef, Kate Fay from Cibo in Parnell, who this year was the first female chef to be announced as a Platinum Ambassador which is a lifelong status for her contribution to Beef + Lamb NZ. Likewise in the butchery industry we see female butchers winning competitions and going on to compete overseas. Hannah Miller-Childs is a great example here, running her own successful business, The Lady Butcher, and competing as the first female on the Pure South Sharp Blacks team for the past two years. Both Kate and Hannah share the same passion which is clearly evident in their successes and longevity in their respective trades.
Last week the butchery industry held its biggest event of the year and what unfolded was a very high degree of showmanship and pride. I asked guest judge, Harry Williams, who is a Beef + Lamb Ambassador Chef, for his thoughts and he was impressed at the passion and creativeness which the butchers were displaying. Harry originally trained as a butcher and made the transition to being a chef after finishing his apprentice as he found himself hungry to move on with his newly acquired skills and put them to good use in the kitchen. After judging the competition last week Harry told me he can see there has been a huge leap in the creative side of butchery, which makes me feel excited for the future collaboration of our butchers and chefs!