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When Greg Egerton first made it into the ‘‘Sharp Blacks’’ — the New Zealand butchery team — it was to compete in a three-team international competition.
When he sharpens his knives for next year’s World Butchers’ Challenge, the Dunedin man and his five team-mates will compete in a genuine world cup, with 12 countries vying for the title.
‘‘It is going to be a massive step up this year ...
‘‘Italy, France and Germany will be the dark horses but the guys from over the Ditch — the Aussies — are always competitive,’’ Mr Egerton said.
‘‘Because of the greater number of competitors, we have stepped it up and been more creative with the theme for our table.’’
The team members have been corresponding by email and expect to meet up for eight training sessions before the competition.
In the last competition, in 2016, France beat Australia, Great Britain and New Zealand.
The 2018 challenge is being held in Belfast and the likes of Ireland, Bulgaria, South Africa and the United States will be taking part for the first time.
The challenge will be a part of Ifex, a major European food and retail showcase.
‘‘I’ll be like a kid in a candy store: that’s one of the reasons I wanted to take part again,’’ Mr Egerton said.
‘‘Last time I went to 32 butcher shops, four markets and about 15 restaurants. The knowledge you take back and the things you learn from what other countries are doing all feeds back into the store. It’s priceless.’’
The Sharp Blacks are captained by Corey Winder, of Christchurch. Other team members are Mr Egerton, Hannah Miller Childs (Auckland), Jeremy Garth (Christchurch), Zak Grammer (Auckland) and Hohepa Smith (Gold Coast).
For the competition, each team has to break down a side of beef, pork, a whole lamb and five chickens into a themed display within three hours. Selected portions will then be cooked.
Teams are judged on health and safety, process, technique and finished results. In addition, the team captain selects three items from the team table to be cooked. Each must take no more than 40 minutes to be plated and served.
Mr Egerton, a three-time Sharp Black and part of the 2015 championship winning team, has been self-funded in the past, but for 2018 has been sponsored by employer The Mad Butcher to take part.
‘‘I am about gastronomy,’’ he said.
‘‘I’m looking at what the world’s best chefs are doing and trying to bring those flavours into what I am doing.
‘‘There are some cuts there that are pushing the culinary world, as well as the butchery world.’’