Competition beefs up at nationals
DAILY GRIND Phill Pirie began his career in butchery working on Saturdays to boost his income. Now he is competing for a place in New Zealand’s Sharp Blacks. Joe Dawson caught up with the Mt Eden man to learn more about his trade.
After realising he preferred the challenges and joys that come with working in a butcher’s shop, Phill Pirie put down the sparky’s kit and picked up the cleaver.
‘‘I’ve been butchering for 14 years and I was an electrician before that,’’ he says.
‘‘I was working in a butchers on weekends making sausages and decided to become a butcher.
‘‘I enjoyed it, more so than being an electrician. It’s not the most glamorous job, but it’s good to have job satisfaction – every day is different and there’s always a challenge.’’
Originally from York, UK, Mr Pirie moved to New Zealand about a decade ago.
He has been at Mt Eden Traditional Butchery pretty much ever since – ‘‘I’m part of the chattels now’’ – and is the butchery manager there these days.
He says the job is a mix of technical ability – he holds qualifications in meat science giving him thorough knowledge of anatomy and physiology – and customer service so offers great variety.
Customers require a mix of products.
Some are too busy to put too much effort into their cookery while the surge of interest in food through shows like Master Chef also sees a more discerning punter come through the doors.
‘‘It’s always been based on personal service,’’ Mr Pirie says. ‘‘We’ve now gone through the next generation and people now are getting more into cooking and entertaining.
‘‘We also do kitchen-ready meals which are done in 15 to 20 minutes for the consumer who doesn’t have time to cook.
‘‘That’s one thing about butcher’s shops, you can find out what the customer specifically wants, but in the super- market you only get what’s on the shelf.
‘‘It’s not just your sausages and mince.’’
The career path also gives the opportunity to go up against the best in the business.
Mr Pirie has taken to the competitive side of the butchery with relish.
Earlier this year he travelled to Wanaka to watch New Zealand’s best butchery team, the Sharp Blacks, come up against the best of the UK and Australia in a tri-nations competition.
He chatted with organisers and made his way on to a North Island representative team in a ‘‘battle of the butchers’’ against their southern counterparts.
From there he has put himself into contention to join the Sharp Blacks squad heading to the UK next year.
‘‘The North Island team won, so four members of that team and two from the South Island have made up a team to go against the Sharp Blacks.
‘‘The best of the two will make up the new Sharp Blacks. It does sound brutal but it means the current team need to work hard to keep their positions.’’
Mr Pirie says he is well supported by his employer Helen Clotworthy of Pokeno Bacon, who bought the Mt Eden Traditional Butchery late last year.
Meat man: Butcher Phill Pirie. The trophy is from the North Island butchery team’s recent win against their South Island counterparts. He is gunning for a spot on the national team, the Sharp Blacks.