corey winder prepares a cut

New Zealand’s national butchery team, the Sharp Blacks, has announced its line-up for the upcoming World Butchers’ Challenge (WBC), which will next be held in Sacramento, California in 2020.

The seven-man team has a strong track record, with three victories under its belt and a second-place win in Belfast. They make up some of the best butchers in New Zealand, and are preparing for the ‘Olympics of Butchery’.

Corey Winder has led the team since 2011, when the WBC was conceived, and has been instrumental both to the team’s success and New Zealand’s meat industry in general. “We were incredibly luck to have an excess of enthusiastic butchers to select from,” he said of the team. “We’ve had the luxury of picking a balanced team that suits the various roles required and I believe we are going with one of our strongest squads yet.”

The biennial international competition started out as a trans-Tasman test match in 2011, but the 2020 event will be held at the Golden 1 Centre in California. Hosting the competition is competitive, with a bidding process that saw proposals from Paris and Sao Paulo as well as the winning city of Sacramento.

Kiwi Rod Slater is the founder of the WBC and current Chairman of the Organising committee. “When I came up with the concept over a glass of whisky with an Aussie colleague, I never thought it would grow into what it is today,” said Slater. “It just goes to show that the international butchery trade is not just alive and kicking, it’s truly flourishing.”

A panel of judges from around the world will score sixteen teams on the task of slicing up a side of beef, a side of pork, a whole lamb, and five chickens. The teams will be expected to produce a themed display of products in just three hours and fifteen minutes.

The judges will consider knife skills, hygiene, safety, consistency, time management, cookability and saleability as well as style, visual impact and innovation of the display.

The Sharp Blacks team is made up of:

  • Corey Winder, Team Captain and Product Developer – Often described as the Richie McCaw of butchery, the Christchurch-based Winder is the glue that holds the team together.
  • Jeremy Garth, Product Developer – Garth has won regional Alto Young Butcher competitions, competed in national competitions, and was part of the second-placing Sharp Blacks team in Belfast this year.
  • David Timbs, Product Developer – Born and bred in the butchery world, Timbs is an experienced competitor and an intuitive butcher.
  • Riki Kerekere, Breaking & Boning – Poacher turned gamekeeper Kerekere was the New Zealand-representative judge at this year’s WBC, so brings insider knowledge to the Sharp Blacks.
  • Reuben Sharples, Breaking & Boning – Alto Butcher of the year 2017 Sharples is a media darling and the owner of New Lynn’s Aussie Butcher. He’s won awards for butchery skills as well as product quality.
  • James Smith, Garnishing & Display – He’s only been a butcher for eight years, but he’s already running the show at PAK’nSAVE Pukekohe. This foodie’s flourishes will be the tipping point for the judges.
  • Luka Young, Reserve – Young was part of the third-placing Young Butchers of New Zealand team in Belfast this year, and will prove invaluable if he’s asked to step up for another Sharp Black.

The series Knives Out documented the Sharp Black’s experience at the WBC in Belfast earlier this year, and is available on TVNZ On Demand.