Meet Tom Wood, Huntley’s Country Stores’ butcher heading for the World Butcher’s Challenge
PUBLISHED: 00:00 05 August 2016
The knives are out and the gloves are off for a butcher determined to make the cut at this year’s World Butchers’ Challenge in Australia. Emma Mayoh reports
Tom Wood isn’t the kind to settle for second place. When the 37-year-old was part of the GB team which took the number two spot in the Tri Nation Butchery Competition in New Zealand last year, he was determined things would be different in 2016.
‘I absolutely want us to win this year,’ said Tom. ‘We came really close which I think surprised a few people. There were only a few points in it. It’s got to happen this year.
‘I’ve always been a person with a strong work ethic. I stay focused and set myself high targets. I was lucky enough to be brought up in the industry from being knee-high and meat is my passion. Second best isn’t good enough for me.’
It is good news for Lancashire and for the Great British team as next month Tom, butchery manager at Huntley’s Country Stores in Samlesbury, will travel to Australia’s Gold Coast as one of six butchers representing the country at the World Butcher’s Challenge.
He will be vice-captain of the British Beefeaters Team GB and will face rivals from Australia and New Zealand as well as newcomers, France. He and his fellow competitors will be given animal carcasses to carve into various cuts. They must provide a finished spread of meat that would be pride of place in a modern retail outlet. They will be scored on their butchery skills, workmanship, product innovation, the overall finish and presentation. There are just three hours to do it.
‘It’s very intense and that time really does pass by quickly,’ said Tom. ‘One wrong slice of the knife and it makes it hard for everyone else or even worse, you can totally ruin a cut.
‘The pressure will definitely be on. But I’m looking forward to getting out there and getting started.’
Tom earned his place on the team last year after taking part in a gruelling selection process in London. He had to carve different parts of a carcass in front of a live audience as well as in front of the judges who would make the final decision on whether he deserved a spot on the team.
‘It was pretty terrifying,’ he said. ‘I remember looking up and there were people around my bench. They were probably hoping for some time to chat but once I’m in the zone it’s like there is nothing else going on around me.
‘I couldn’t quite believe it when I found out I’d got a place. I was so excited and apprehensive but mostly, so incredibly proud.’
Tom grew up on the family farm in Dutton working with his father, James. His competitive nature has given him success in picking up the skills needed for a successful career in butchery – including running the successful department at Huntley’s, of which he is understandable proud.
But it has also stood him in good stead for other pursuits. He used to show some of the Simmental herd from the family farm. And he also enjoyed success locally in show jumping competitions.
‘People are pretty surprised about the show jumping,’ said Tom, who lives in Chipping. ‘But it was something I loved. And I always try to do my absolute best in everything I do.
‘But when I turned 17, things changed. I gave up the horses and bought my first car, a Vauxhall Nova. It’s funny looking back.’
As you’d expect from someone as determined as Tom, he has big ambitions. As well as keeping standards high at Huntleys, he also dreams of running a butchery and cookery school and passing on his skills to younger generations as a way of keeping the industry thriving. This includes his three daughters Sophia, 13, Lily-Mae, 10, and Mia, nine.
‘Through things like the competition, it’s good to showcase what you can actually do and hopefully educate and promote the industry,’ he said. ‘I was fortunate enough to be brought up in the farming industry by my parents and being brought up in the meat trade by my father. That really cemented my passion for butchery.
‘Growing up, attending and supporting the agricultural shows during the summer were far better than going to Ibiza in my eyes. The farming community is second to none. My father taught me the whole process.
‘Now, I find myself in my father’s position and educating my three daughters who also have the opportunity to witness the fantastic industry. From helping on the farm and seeing livestock born to watching their dad in the butchery trade, it gives me great satisfaction to broaden their minds and teach them the difference between quality and the correct methods that are in place throughout the trade. You never know, I might have a future butcherette!’