A Crowborough butcher will have his technique and skill tested against the best in the world in a contest in America next year.
Jonny West who manages Leppard Butchers in Croft Road was chosen after a nationwide search to find Britain’s best butchers to represent Team GB.
Jonny said he was reticent to nominate himself, but then was actively encouraged to do so by the Team Captain.
The initial selection process involved showcasing his skills by jointing a chicken to create a display. When he didn’t hear anything more, he assumed he’d been unsuccessful. Then last month, out-of-the-blue, he was asked to go to a luxury private members’ club in London.
The event, just three-days later at Home House, an historic Georgian townhouse in Marylebone, was the official Team GB launch.
The day included an instruction seminar about the competition and an interview process. Later in the afternoon Jonny was honoured to be officially welcomed to the team.
I was absolutely stoked. I feel privileged to be part of the team.
It’s a bit like if you play for Crowborough football club and got picked for England.
That’s how it makes me feel – It is the highest accolade I could hope for.Jonny West
Jonny started at the age of fifteen as an apprentice and has worked in the industry for 26 years, including working in an abattoir and on a farm for two years, because he wanted to know those sides of the trade.
At the World Butchery Challenge teams of six each have three hours, 15 minutes to turn a side of beef, pork, a whole lamb and five chickens into a first class butchery display. Each team will be judged by a panel of industry experts on their preparation, presentation, finishing and display.
The butchers are allowed to provide their own seasonings, spices and garnish to finish products that are designed to inspire and push the boundaries, but would still sell in a retail setting, because they are easy to cook and tasty to eat.
In 2018, the competition was held in Belfast, with first-time entrants Team Ireland named overall champions. Team GB came fourth, but they won the category for best beef product.
The World Butchery Challenge started out as a “Test Match” between butchers from New Zealand and Australia, before Britain joined. Since then the contest has grown, with next year’s event featuring teams from countries from across the globe including Brazil, South Africa and Bulgaria. In addition, the event also celebrates new talent, with competitions for the World Champion Butcher Apprentice & Young Butcher prior to the main event.
Obviously Team GB want to win the coveted trophy, but the team members are also keen to use the contest as a way of showcasing the industry and using it as a way of promoting butchery as a career and vocation.
Jonny wants to go into local schools and show students how to process a chicken.
At the end of the day it could save them lots of money and it might get them interested in joining the trade.
It’s a good industry to be in.Jonny West
The bi-annual competition was originally scheduled to take place last year, but like many events, fell it victim to Covid-19 disruption.
Before showing-off the dry ageing cabinet in the shop where their Rib-eye Steaks come from, Jonny spoke passionately about Leppard’s quality ethos.
We support local farms and local suppliers.
Our trade went through the roof when Covid kicked-off, as we never had any trouble with supply. People, who hadn’t used us before, started coming; and they kept coming-back. Covid is an horrific thing, but it has opened many people’s eyes to their shopping habits.
We are never going to be a stack it high, sell it cheap sort of place; buying meat from abroad. It is a false economy if you are not providing decent quality meat.
However some of the meats we do sell are cheaper than the supermarkets and it’s far nicer.Jonny West
The two-day spectacle takes place at the beginning of September 2022 in the home of the Sacramento Kings basketball team in California. An anticipated audience of over 5,000 is expected in the arena.
To see examples of his displays follow Jonny on Instagram @butcherwesty.