Foxton's Makalah Stevens, 21, has been named Butcher Apprentice of the Year after winning a prestigious regional competition in Wellington recently.
Butchers from across the Lower North Island battled it out in the regional stages of the 2018 Alto Butcher and ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentice of the Year awards, with Makalah of New World Foxton, taking out the top spot in her category after a tightly fought competition.
Makalah was judged on a two-hour challenge where she had to break down a large chicken, a boneless beef rump and a full pork loin complete with belly into a display of value-added products.
It is the second year the young butcher has won the title, and she will go through to the national competition to be held in Auckland in September.
Makalah first formed an interest in butchery as a young child, helping her father with the homekill on their Foxton property.
Some years later she was offered a job in the butchery department at Foxton's New World supermarket, where she discovered a natural affinity for the work.
"I found I liked it more than I thought I would," she said.
"It's satisfying doing competitions too, and showing that there's more to butchery than just standard cuts."
Makalah has been with the supermarket for two years and says she hopes to takes competing even further, with the ultimate goal being to become a member of the Sharp Blacks, New Zealand's national competitive butchery team.
She also hopes to one day own her own butchery business, after travelling to see how it is done in other places, although admits she is a local girl at heart.
"I'm not sure I'd want to leave Foxton," she said.
She said she was looking forward to heading to Auckland for the Alto Butcher of the Year and ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentice of the Year competition, where she would be one of 10 award-winning apprentices hoping to take out first place and win a trip to the United States.
Makalah plans to work on her speed for the final, she said, and may not finish as many products in order to get every item on her table perfect before they are looked over by the eagle eyes of the judges.
She competed last year but did not place, so is going in even more determined than ever.
Head Judge Matt Grimes, who has been involved in the competition for 13 years, told Retail Meat NZ that the skills needed to become a great butcher are ever-growing.
"Year-on-year these competitions get harder and harder to judge as the skill level of the butchers and the apprentices just keeps on improving," he said.
"I am blown away with the craftsmanship and creativity seen today and I believe our industry is in very good hands with the talent we have coming through in these competitions."
Makalah will travel to the Auckland final in September with her partner, as well as New World Foxton owner/operator Jason Davy, who said he was very proud of her efforts.
"She's been working very hard to get that far," he said.
"She's done outstandingly and the whole shop is really proud of her.
"We're pretty confident she'll do well in Auckland."
He said a Foxton contingent would be going to Auckland with Makalah to support her, and when they got back the store would be looking to do something special to celebrate her achievements.