Sacramento CA hosts the World Butcher Challenge meat competition

Danny Johnson has spent years plotting to make Sacramento a battleground for the world’s top butchers.

This weekend, after endless amounts of planning, practice and waiting for COVID-19 delays, the owner of Taylor’s Market finally made his California event a reality and brought the World Butchers’ Challenge to the United States. United for the first time.

The Golden 1 Center hosted the international meat-cutting event on Friday and Saturday, which combines the camaraderie of a butcher shop with an Iron Chef-like competition.

“I thought it was consistent with what we do in Sacramento with farm to fork,” Johnson said. “I think Sacramento is the perfect size city for an event like this. In a big city, I feel like it would get lost, and we have this beautiful place that the city was able to give us.

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Danny Johnson of Taylor’s Market in Sacramento puts the finishing touches with a teammate at the World Butchers’ Challenge Team USA presentation at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022. Nathaniel Levine [email protected]

Butchers come to Sacramento

The World Butchers’ Challenge features teams of six who each have three and a half hours to break down a prime rib, a pork chop, a whole lamb and five chickens.

They slice and grind the various cuts to create large displays of raw protein dishes plated and presented to customers, as if appearing in a butcher’s shop. Butchers use a series of knives and saws to cut the meat, and they also get machinery, including grinders and slicers, to further process it.

Judges evaluate the final display and select a winner.

The challenge began in 2011 as a butchery contest between New Zealand and Australia. It gradually grew into an international event attracting teams from North America, South America and Europe.

Johnson and Taylor Market Director Paul Carras has joined the Butchers of America team to compete in the 2018 challenge in Belfast.

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Paul Carras of Taylor’s Market in Sacramento puts the finishing touches on Team USA’s World Butchers’ Challenge presentation at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022. Nathaniel Levine [email protected]

Prior to the competition, Johnson began urging Visit Sacramento President Mike Testa to consider hosting the World Butchers’ Challenge in Sacramento.

“He tried to get me to go to Belfast and watch him,” Testa said. “I said, ‘You take good pictures, and come back and tell me about it.'”

Eventually, Visit Sacramento offered to host the 2020 contest, competing against cities like Paris. The city won the 2020 event and was set to host the challenge before the COVID pandemic shut down the world.

“I actually think it may have helped,” said Team USA manager Nathan Bingham. “These two extra years that everyone’s been waiting for just helped us build the buzz so we could get more sponsors, spread the word about what’s going on.”

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Bryan Butler of Team USA makes a cut during the World Butchers’ Challenge at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Saturday September 3, 2022. Nathaniel Levine [email protected]

Three hours of slicing meat

The Butchers’ main challenge kicked off late Saturday morning with teams from Canada, New Zealand, France, Great Britain, Brazil, Australia, Iceland and eight others country.

Butchers began carving their meat at stations set up on the floor of the arena, cutting and sawing chunks of meat and fat.

For more than three hours straight, they transformed raw red meat into dozens of intricate creations set out on display racks showcasing their country’s traditions and meat dishes.

Much of the meat was prepared and seasoned for customers to take home and cook in the oven, on the stove or on the grill.

The theme for Americans was “a Saturday morning at a butcher shop in America,” with sausages hung in the back of the display, ground meat laid out in rows, and cuts of meat artfully arranged around the tables.

The range of British dishes celebrated Queen Elizabeth II’s platinum jubilee, with meat cake and sausages arranged in a ’70’ shape to celebrate her seven decades of reign.

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Framed by cut-out portraits of Queen Elizabeth II, two So Great Britian cast members cut meat during the World Butchers’ Challenge at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Saturday, September 3, 2022. Nathaniel Levine [email protected]

Italy’s display evoked ancient Rome, with meat displayed on paintings atop Roman columns.

The France team had the loudest fans and a large cheering section continually shouted “Allez la France!” or “Go France!” while their butchers cut and placed the meat.

Sacramento Butchers feel the emotion

By the time Johnson and his team prepared their final dishes and cleaned up their workstation, they were completely exhausted, emotionally and physically.

The Butchers raised their fists, hugged each other and wiped away tears as they received applause from their audience and shook hands with contestants.

Johnson said everyone is feeling the culmination of years of practice, fundraising and preparation. For the past six months, all team members have been training three to four days a week, in addition to their regular duties and responsibilities.

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Danny Johnson of Taylor’s Market in Sacramento celebrates with his Butchers of America teammates after the time expires during the World Butchers’ Challenge at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Saturday, September 3, 2022. Nathaniel Levine [email protected]

“It’s a lot of hard work,” Johnson said. “We give up a lot. I’ve been working on it since 2017. We’ve been delayed with the pandemic and all that. And just the fact that we’re done – it’s a roller coaster. You have ups and downs. »

The teams will not know the winner until Sunday evening. Ireland are the defending champions, but Johnson believes the Americans have improved significantly since their last challenge.

“In Belfast we were like a seven,” Johnson said. “We’re probably like a 9.8 here. We know what we did wrong, but we’re not going to tell the judges.

This story was originally published September 3, 2022 7:22 p.m.

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Lindsey Holden covers the California Legislature for The Sacramento Bee. She previously reported on housing and local government for The Tribune of San Luis Obispo. Lindsey began her career at the Rockford Register Star in Illinois. She is originally from California and grew up in the Midwest, where she earned degrees from DePaul and Northwestern universities.