Pair make National Butchery Awards cut

Riley Hall never thought he would grow up to be a butcher — especially not as the son of a vegetarian.

But as soon as he started doing it, he knew that he loved it.

"It’s more than just cutting meat to me," he said.

"It takes up a lot of your life to be honest trying to find the perfect recipe, trying to think of something new that no-one else has thought of before and always trying to be better at what you do."

The Gardens New World apprentice butcher is among 12 New Zealand butchers, and two from Dunedin, to have qualified for the 2024 National Butchery Awards — a national butchery competition to be held in Auckland later this year.

Mr Hall, a first time competitor who began his apprenticeship a year and a-half ago, will be joined by Isaac Webster, of Links Quality Meats, who now has seven previous competitions under his belt.

The pair earned a spot in the grand finals after they placed first in the ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentice and Pact Packaging Young Butcher categories respectively, in the lower South Island regional heats held in Dunedin last Friday.

Competitors needed to break down a beef short loin, whole pork leg, square-cut lamb shoulder and two chicken barrels into a display of value-added products — all within a two-hour time limit.

Dunedin butchers Isaac Webster (left), of Links Quality Meats, and Riley Hall, of Gardens New...
Dunedin butchers Isaac Webster (left), of Links Quality Meats, and Riley Hall, of Gardens New World, have qualified for the 2024 National Butchery Awards to be held in Auckland in August. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
After watching Mr Webster’s 2023 performance, Mr Hall said he was inspired to recreate one of his products but with added cheese.

He hoped a trip to Paris for the world championships would be on the table, but it all came down to what happened at the nationals, he said.

Mr Webster said he enjoyed the competing side of butchery and while it could be stressful, getting good results was always a bonus.

He said Mr Hall’s display was colourful and varied with lots of products, and with a bit of work would be "well up there" once in Auckland.

Mr Webster, who has also previously worked at Gardens New World, said he saw a bit of himself in Mr Hall.

"I’ve been there — the first competition, the first time going to Auckland.

"I know what it’s like and anything I can pass on that might help him, I’m happy to."