Throughout my butchery career, I have been fortunate enough to be part of competitions with the National Federation of Meat and Food Traders (NFMFT), which take place worldwide for butchers with different types of experience, whether you have just finished your Level 2 butcher apprenticeship or are an advanced butcher looking to take your knowledge and skills to the next level.
My career started in 2010 at Walter Smith Fine Foods when I enrolled on a Level 2 Butchery Apprenticeship. When I passed my exams and became a fully qualified butcher, I was approached by NFMFT to compete in a Premier Young Butcher competition. In the six rounds that took place throughout the day, I was fortunate enough to place 1st in four categories which were; Displaying, Added Value, Seam Butchery and BBQ products. Winning these categories gave me an overall placing of 1st, which declared me Premier Young butcher 2014. This competition led me to qualify for the international championships the following year. The butchery training was intense and nothing I have experienced before came close to this. UK butchery training is very different from continental butchery where they seam every single muscle from a carcase and create numerous meat products, something the UK butchery industry don’t do as much.
During my time training my mentor entered me into another competition to be considered for the ‘Apprentice with most management promise’. I was shortly contacted by the Institute of Meat (IOM) to inform me my application had been successful, and I was awarded this at the Worshipful Company of Butchers (WOB) in Central London. When attending the awards ceremony, I was surprised to see an overall “champion of champions” category which was yet to be announced, as you can imagine it was extremely nerve-racking for the butchery apprentices who had won other awards. I knew the competition around me was extremely tough so I felt if I did not win, I should not be disheartened. “And the winner of Britain’s Champion of champions is ……. Chris Riley!” I was honoured my application was considered the best for this award and I only have Paul Cadman to thank for this.
During my time at Holland, where the international competition took place, I experienced a completely different level of competition and expertise in the craft butchery industry. I came 11th place in the competition, which was disappointing. However, I took it as a tool I could use in my career to allow me to climb the ladder further within my role as a butcher.
Any advice I could give to anyone thinking about doing any competitions within the butchery industry is to:
– Stay humble and do not think you know everything.
– Do your research and understand the competition rules.
– Have a personality and express your passion for your products.
– Practice, practice and practice more.
I would have never thought doing a Level 2 Butchery Apprenticeship would have taken me this far in my career and it shows, if you put your mind to something you can achieve anything in the butchery industry.