A team of six crack independent retail butchers has been selected to represent Australia in a Tri-Nations Butchery Competition to be held mid-year in the UK.
The tri-nations concept has grown from an earlier Australasian competition involving Australia and NZ, with a team from the UK involved for the first time last year in an enlarged three-way contest.
The Australian team, drawn from five states, has been selected and managed under MLA’s Butcher’s Guild program, previously known as the Red Meat Networking Club.
The Tri-Nations Butcher Challenge is designed to promote and encourage the uptake of best practise retail butchering to drive productivity, sustainability and profitability in the independent butchery sector. Competition will be judged on a wide range of butchering, preparation and presentation skills, with heavy emphasis on value-adding.
The Australian team represents a nice balance between experience and youth. Team-members include:
- Michael James, Carina North Meats, Brisbane, Qld
- Gary Hine, The Naked Butcher, WA
- Adam Stratton, Tender Value Meats, NSW
- Trevor Hill, Bruce’s Meats, South Australia
- Matthew Papandrea, Joe Papandrea Quality Meats, NSW
- Tom Bouchier, Butchers of Distinction, Victoria.
The candidates were selected via previous contests. For example Trevor Hill represented in the bi-nations contest in NZ last year, while Matt Papandrea is a former AMIC NSW state apprentice of the year. Tommy Bouchier performed extremely strongly in the Mystery Box retail competition in Victoria last year, while Adam Stratton is well known as an experienced and progressive retail butcher.
The team has already gotten together for a couple of practise sessions, and is confident about its prospects.
July’s competition will be conducted over a two-hour period, with teams given a side of beef and a full lamb carcase as base ingredients. Teams will be able to provide their own seasonings, spices, marinades and garnish to produce a range of finished products designed for a modern retail butchery outlet.
Competition gets underway at the prestigious Yorkshire Show on July 2.
Team members in profile
Published here is the first of six profiles on the Australian team members for the Tri-Nations Butchery Challenge. The remaining profiles will appear on Beef Central in in coming days.
Adam Stratton, Tender Gourmet Butcheries, NSW
Sydney butcher Adam Stratton thrives on innovation, as his multi-award winning butcher shops demonstrate.
Adam spent a lot of his childhood in his uncle’s Sydney shop, where he dreamed of one day owning his own business. He completed his apprenticeship and after a stint working in senior levels in the supermarket industry, eventually achieved his ambition in 2000.
Adam now runs three ‘Tender Gourmet Butchery’ stores at Hornsby, Brookvale and Bondi, plus a factory to supply sausages to Thomas Dux and selected Coles stores.
He has honed his skills on two previous Tri-Nations Butchery teams, bringing home gold both times.
The latest Tender Gourmet Butchery business opened at Bondi in November, and in the first weekend alone, 750 customers passed through the doors to try his sausages, grassfed beef and delicious shepherd’s pies and pastries.
One of the highlights at the new Bondi shop is the dry aged beef showroom. “We have brought theatre to the business,” Adam said. “The beef carcases are hanging in a room lined with Himalayan pink rock salt bricks. The lights reflect off the salt bricks, creating a pink glow, as they draw the moisture out of the meat. Our customers love it, especially the real ‘steak men’ who can’t wait to tell their mates about it.”
Adam’s innovative gourmet sausages – think san choy bow, Moroccan lamb and raisin (judged best sausage in Australia in 2011), and Mexican beef – have won many accolades, earning him the title of Australia’s most awarded butcher.
Innovation is one of the business’s hallmarks.
“If someone had told me when I got my first shop 13 years ago, that I would one day be selling gourmet pies and pastries I would have told them they were dreaming. Back then, it was all about steaks and chops, but now I go through 40kg of puff pastry each week in just one store,” Adam said.
“I reckon I’m a butcher, a baker and a chef. It’s a sign of the times – people expect more from their food. They want to know where it came from, how it was produced, and they are often time-poor so they want meal options that are easy to cook but still visually appealing and delicious.”
Social media is an increasingly important part of Adam’s interaction with customers.
“I’m very active on social media,” he said.
“I use Facebook and Twitter profiles to run competitions and promote our new store and new products. I do some traditional forms of advertising, such as print and radio, but the biggest form is word of mouth. We also often cook barbeques out the front of the shops, which are really popular – we sold 50kg of our ‘Bondi burgers’ a day in the week we opened the new shop, they were a big hit.”
So, what’s the next innovation for the business?
“I’m always thinking of new ways to connect with customers and educate them about meat. Now that we have the new facilities at Bondi, I want to host a ‘wine evening at the butchers’. One of our guys will break down a carcase, while explaining the different cuts and their uses, and guests can ask questions about where the meat came from, how it was produced, and how it should be cooked.”
The energetic butcher is a familiar face on news programs such as A Current Affair, where he provides a positive perspective on industry issues. He is also committed to mentoring young butchers and hosts regular master classes.
Adam stays at the top of the game with regular trips around Australia and overseas, to check out the techniques and products of other leading butchers.
“I also look outside Australia. I heard about Turdukens (a turkey, stuffed with a duck, stuffed with a chicken) in the US and now we sell 1200 at Christmas-time.”