Six butcher apprentices from around New Zealand are sharpening their skills, and knives, in preparation for the upcoming Grand Final of the ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentice of the Year.
Over the past month they have all competed in two-hour regional competitions where they put their boning, trimming, slicing and dicing to the test to earn their spot in the final.
Mentorship is a critical part of any apprentice’s journey, and the finalists all acknowledge that having a great mentor played a part in their regional win.
Vichith Ouk, a third year apprentice from Countdown Meat & Seafood in Otahuhu, was mentored by operations manager, Riki Kerekere.
“Having Riki as a mentor helped immensely in the lead up to the competition,” says Vitchith. “Seeing his confidence in me really helped to keep calm and focus on a plan which I think got me through to the grand final.”
Second year apprentice Isaac Webster from New World Gardens, Dunedin, was a first time entrant and his butchery manager, Corey Parker, mentored him to get the basics right in preparation for the regional competition.
“Being my first competition, I wasn’t sure of my ability so it’s great to win and get some really good feedback from the judges which I can now use in preparation for the grand final,” Isaac says.
The six ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentice of the Year finalists are:
James Beattie – PAK'nSAVE Te Awamutu - Waikato Regional Winner
Maria de Lourdes Pio – PAK'nSAVE Rangiora, Christchurch
Vichith Ouk – Countdown Meat & Seafood, Auckland – Upper North Island Regional Winner
Isaac Webster – New World Gardens, Dunedin – Lower South Island Regional Winner
Jacob Wells – New World Foxton – Lower North Island Regional Winner
Blair Wright – Peter Timbs Meats, Christchurch – Upper South Island Regional Winner
They will showcase their cutting skills, creativity and knowledge of the trade in the Grand Final on Tuesday 10th November which will be live streamed on the Retail Meat New Zealand website.
The winner takes away the coveted national Butcher Apprentice of the Year title, trophy, knife set, and all expenses paid study tour. Additional prizes are awarded to the runner-up and for speciality categories including the Competenz Emerging Talent award.
Find out more about Competenz butchery apprenticeships.
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Opal is a manufacturer of corrugated fibre packaging for a wide range of customers in the food, wine, industrial and beverage industries. Bruce Coombe is Opal’s Technical Supervisor and has been with the company for the past 32 years, and a workplace apprentices assessor for Competenz for 20 years.