“Old School” Kicks Pork Butt!
On Saturday, September 21st eleven of the best butchers in the county went knife to knife in the “Best Butcher Competition 2013” in Portland, Oregon. In the last few months over 3000 meat cutters have competed in local and regional competitions narrowing the field down to the final eleven, which included me!
Competition day was pleasant and mostly sunny, except for the 20 minute downpour right before our event started. Wouldn’t be Portland without some rain in the day! A few hundred people were gathered in front of the big stage in Director’s Park, live music and dancing going on, and Whole Foods vendors cooking up great food and drinks for the crowd to sample. (note the large group in “Black Belt Butcher” t-shirts…yep…my posse!)
From backstage I hear them, local celebrity chef Adam Sappington, Jenn Louis a past Top Chef Masters contestant, and Top Chef winner Paul Qui. They are revving up the crowd before our knife-fest begins.….then we’re all walking out onto the stage…..and the crowd goes wild for me!!!….I mean us…well me…being the hometown favorite let’s just say the crowd was generously seeded with my family, friends and co-workers who had instructions to go crazy with the yelling and screaming. They made an awesome noise for Robert “Old School” Young and I loved it!
We take our stations; start sharpening our knives and then we’re off butchering a pork leg at top speed for the next 20 minutes. I cut, sawed, tied, trimmed and then hands up I’m done. Crazy fast but I had some good looking pork on that tray.
The judges go from table to table looking at the eleven presentation trays….they talk…they point….they take notes…they look some more….the competitors sweat….the crowd is quiet….and finally they are ready to announce the final 4 who will move on to the next round. YES, I’m in the top 4!!
After some stage reorganizing the final 4 are brought back out and again the crowd goes crazy. What a rush this is….if it wasn’t so stressful it would be fun. Déjà vu all over again only this time it’s a beef leg on the table in front of us. Three, two, one and the knives start to fly for another 20 minutes.
Again with the cutting, tying, sawing and trimming; did I mention sawing? Yeah, I sawed on that leg for what felt like forever. I was sweating, breathing heavy and really slowing down…cut…keep cutting…cut some more…and then I hear the crowd roar with 3, 2, 1 and it’s over!
I look at what my competitors produced and its good; no slouches in this bunch. I’ll be honest though, I was pretty sure it was between me and Hector “El Jefe” Yedra from San Francisco. The impressive volume of meat on his tray had me rethinking my strategy of doing less common and more intricate cuts. We’ll see.
The judges do their thing again with the looking and talking; then they huddle for what seems like hours. Finally one of them comes to the mike and says they’re going to announce the Fan Favorite and then the Winner. Holding my breath….and it’s “Old School” as fan favorite! The crowd goes WILD…screaming..cheering…whoot, whoot….seemed to go on forever!!! I look out and my family, friends and co-workers are jumping up and down going crazy. It was ridiculous and I loved every second of it!
Oh yeah….back to the business at hand….announcing the winner…and the winner is… Hector “El Jefe” Yedra! Impressive work Hector! Well deserved.
It’s all good; I made it to the Top 4 and won Fan Favorite. Totally happy with what I accomplished and proud to have represented my craft. It will go down as one of my best days ever!