By ROBYN BRISTOW
The knives were out last week as Samantha Weller, from New World Rangiora, trimmed her way to the title of World Champion Apprentice Butcher.
The 23-year-old travelled to Belfast, Northern Ireland, with New Zealand’s butchery team, the Pure South Sharp Blacks, to compete in the cutting test.
She competed against 10 others from five countries, who had two hours to turn a beef rump on the bone, a side of lamb, and a loin of pork belly into a display of value-added cuts – much like that seen in a butcher shop or supermarket.
Ireland’s Brian McNamee finished a close second, with Victor Dumas, from France, rounding out the top three placings.
Samantha was proud of her effort, which follows in the footsteps of fellow Kiwi and current Pure South Sharp Black team member Hohepa Smith, who won the World Champion Apprentice Butcher title in 2016,
“It was an amazing feeling representing New Zealand,” said Samantha, who comes from Waikari and is a former student of Hurunui College.
“The competition was really tough and there were some fantastic displays from the other competitors, so I couldn’t believe it when I won.”
Her plan was to keep things simple and focus on presenting the judges with a display that showed her skills and individual flare.
“This is a huge achievement for me and the start of something big. New Zealand is a great place to learn your trade if you want to become a butcher and I would encourage any young Kiwi to consider it as a career path,” Weller says.
Three other young butchers also joined Samantha in Belfast, together forming the ANZCO Young Butchers of New Zealand contingent.
The Pure South Sharp Blacks just missed out on being crowned world champions, finishing runners up at the World Butchers’ Challenge.
Team Ireland, the host nation, took the top spot in a tense battle of the butchers, with the Australian Steelers finishing third.
Corey Winder, Pure South Sharp Blacks’ captain, has been a member of the Kiwi team since its inception in 2011.
“We’re ecstatic. We were pushed right to the wire. The pressure was huge. We have worked extremely hard to get here.
“We all have our day jobs to focus on, so we have to be dedicated and give up our weekends for training to get to this position.
“But a result like this makes it all worth it. I’m so proud of all the Pure South Sharp Blacks.”
The Pure South Sharp Blacks are sponsored by Pure South, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, New Zealand Pork, and Argus. ANZCO Foods sponsored the Young Butchers of New Zealand in the World Butchers’ Young Butcher and Apprentice Competition.