Sharp Blacks keen to bring Kiwi flavour to World Butchers' Challenge

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

The Sharp Blacks, a team of seven of the best butchers in Aotearoa, will be travelling to the US in September to take on the best butchers from around the globe at the World Butchers’ Challenge.

Aotearoa team captain Riki Kerekere (Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Ngāpuhi) will lead them against a record 14 other countries, including newcomers such as Canada, Wales, Iceland and Portugal. The battle to be the best butcher will be held at the Golden 1 Center, home of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings in California, trading basketballs for butchers' blocks on September 3.

But like most things in the past year, Covid-19 has thrown a curveball at Kerekere’s team.

“We ended up having to pick a whole new team again,” he says. “Four of our guys had to pull out to focus on their business.

“We’ve got a young team, very new and it’s the first time competing as a team together.”

Kerekere says the challenge is contested over three hours and 15 minutes to get carcasses of beef, lamb, pork and chickens to be butchered and put on display.

Down to every detail

“It’s nothing like you see in the butcher shop. A lot of imagination and creativity goes into it but there’s a way how they judge it as well. It all comes down to the whole journey of how they do it.”

Kerekere says the judging comes down to every detail of how the butcher does, from the amount of waste to knife skills, how each cut looks and the like.

“Sometimes, people who don’t understand what we’re doing in these competitions just think it’s the end table that beat us. It’s a journey to get to being the best team.

Kiwi spin unique

“If I were to say who the top dogs are, Aotearoa has always done well. The French and Italians are going to bring it, and being in the United States they’re going to bring something different. It’s going to be tough.”

Part of the challenge also includes the flavours that go into cooking the cuts of meat too.

“That’s the beauty of why we do so well in these competitions. We can put a Kiwi spin on anything and it’s different from everyone else. Whereas if you go to France or Italy you  have an idea of what you’re going to get – with us, you don’t know.”