Battle of the butchers - Young apprentice makes the cut

December 21, 2020

Competenz butchery apprentice Blair Wright recently took out the coveted ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentice of the Year award. Blair, who works at independent butcher Peter Timbs Meats in Christchurch also took out the Tegel Foods Best Chicken Product award with his chicken, apricot, cream cheese and prosciutto creation.

The wins are significant achievements for the 19-year-old, the youngest entrant in the competition. He won the regional competition to secure his place in the finals, fighting it out against 40 other competitors. With just over a year to go to complete his apprenticeship with Competenz, Blair says he was “blown away” with the win. “I was rapt and really happy with myself. I put in a lot of hours preparing though so I felt really confident and knew I could smash it out!”

As well as an exam and interviews with a judging panel, the finalists were given two hours to break down a large chicken, a pork leg, a beef short loin and a ‘mystery cut’, which turned out to be a lamb forequarter, into a display of value-added products using stuffing and other ingredients and a variety of techniques.

As part of his preparation, Blair and employer David Timbs – a butcher with more than 20 years’ experience under his belt – would stay after work and brainstorm ideas around each cut and work out what flavour combinations could work. “We started breaking each cut down, boning them out and then experimenting with ingredients. We then came up with a game plan and we’d do a run through of what I’d need to do in the competition. I even timed myself and would try and beat that, so I knew I’d have enough time come finals day and knew what I was doing. The winning chicken product with its cream cheese and prosciutto was something I usually did with a lamb leg, but I experimented with a boned and trussed chicken and it ended up being the winning cut!”

David is justifiably proud of Blair. “I’m rapt with his win. We haven’t had anyone from here win the regionals let alone the finals so it’s great. And being his first time entering the competition it’s fantastic.” David has more than 65 staff and eight apprentices, and as soon as one graduates, another is brought on to learn. “I 100% believe in the value of apprenticeships. All you need is a great attitude and work ethic. We can teach the skills. If you want to do something, it’s mind over matter. Blair is a good example of a young guy who has good skills and is willing to listen in order to learn.”

Blair says results come if you love what you’re doing. “I enjoy showing people what cuts like rump steak can be with a bit of imagination using glazes and flavours. I’d definitely recommend an apprenticeship as you learn a whole lot more than just about meat. And the knife skills you gain can be used anywhere.”

Competenz Account Manager Rob Prins is thrilled one of his apprentices has been crowned Apprentice of the Year. “Blair put in the effort and also got good training from David. He has learned from the best,” says Rob. “Timbs is by far the biggest trainer of butchers I’ve seen in my time and the training is unbelievable, it’s industry best practice. Butchery is an attractive career and there is so much potential for hard working, intelligent butchers. They are highly successful people who, in many cases, run their own businesses. The career opportunities are huge.”

Find out more about our butchery apprenticeships