It’s an unlikely set of sports gear - three chickens, slabs of beef, pork and lamb and a set of sharp knives, but two of Northland’s top butchers are hoping it’ll be the tools they need to slice, bone and dice their way to victory against their South Island counterparts.
New World’s Dion Puncheon and PAK’nSAVE’s Abigail Lane were chosen from dozens of other hopefuls to represent the North Island in the inaugural North vs. South Battle of the Butchers – with the chance to represent New Zealand in Britain next year.
The pair will team up with three other butchers to form Team North Island, and will be given two hours to turn a beef hindquarter, a side of lamb, a side of pork and three chickens into a top shelf butchery display. The inter-island duel will take place on Saturday 20 April, in New Plymouth.
PAK’nSAVE Kaitaia’s Abigail Lane is the only female in the competition. She won the 2011 Apprentice Butcher of the Year and came second in the 2012 Young Butcher of the Year. The 27 year-old says being female in a predominantly male environment has its advantages.
“I specialise in gourmet meat cuts and pastry. I put all the frilly girly stuff on products like Beef Wellingtons that the guys don’t.”
The former computer technician says being selected for the team is very humbling. “It creates a lot of excitement in the butchery, and even the other departments want to come and have a look at what I’m practicing.”
Whangarei’s Dion Puncheon has been charming the customers at New World Regent for nine years. He completed an apprenticeship through the store after leaving a job in the Moerewa meat works. A specialist in de-boning, the 38 year-old says he loves his job and the interaction it gives him with people and has been busy practicing for the big competition.
“I’m really nervous but I’ve got great support. My favourite cut of meat would have to be scotch fillet – it’s got the most flavour.”
Foodstuffs Auckland Managing Director, Murray Jordan says both butchers have done exceptionally well to secure their places in the team and there’s great excitement throughout the stores at their inclusion.
“An industry competition such as this is a great opportunity for both Dion and Abigail to showcase their skills. It’s also wonderful to see the talent we’ve fostered achieving at such a high level and we’ll all be cheering them on. Their inclusion in this prestigious team also confirms the superior quality of the fresh meat products our New World and PAK’nSAVE stores offers to its customers.”
Abigail and Dion will be joined by Isaac Grammer and David Porter from Harmony Foods, and Phill Pirie from Pokeno Bacon.
Not only will the winning team snatch butchery bragging rights over their inter-island rivals, they’ll also go on to compete later in the year against the current national team, the Wedderburn Sharp Blacks.
That competition will determine the top butchers in the country, who will travel to Britain for the international tri-series in 2014.