Butcher Robert Darling, who works at Turnbull’s of Alnwick, has been crowned Young Butcher of the Year in Q Guild Butchers 2020 Smithfield ‘Star’ Awards.
The 18-year-old becomes the inaugural winner of the coveted title, sponsored by the Institute of Meat, open to all aged under 24 and introduced for the first time this year to both recognise and reward the industry’s rising stars. Part of the brief was that nominees must have developed a product sold in the shop
Rob’s own product, which had first picked up a best in category Diamond award, was Pork Wellington, described as a twist on the traditional Wellington using a pork cannon, butterflied open and stuffed with chorizo and morcilla, with the pork rolled back up as a roulade. It is encased in puff pastry lightly brushed with seasoned oil. The up-and-coming young butcher even developed the cooking guidelines at home.
Judges were mightily impressed, describing Rob as a considerable asset to Turnbull’s. They noted: “This type of experience will prove invaluable as he progresses through his career, which is looking very bright. His attention to detail was evident in the Pork Wellington he produced. It was technically excellent and performed well when cooked. The judges really loved the taste and the added chorizo and morcilla. Well done.”
Rob joined Turnbull’s as an apprentice butcher in May last year at a time of major expansion for the business, with its long-established family-run shop in Market Street recently supplemented by a brand-new custom-designed Northumbrian Food Hall on Willowburn Retail Park. There is also a standalone factory cutting plant, where all of the raw meat production takes place.
Owner Mark Turnbull, a former Q Guild Butchers national chairman, said: “In the short time Rob has been with us, the business has evolved arguably more than at any other point than in the previous 140 years we have been trading. He has met the changes superbly and with a terrific attitude.
“He has worked across all three of our sites and excelled at each. He is predominantly based at the cutting plant, where we are developing his knife skills, having him working on pork, lamb and beef whole carcasses. He has a great level of confidence and competence when he is set a task.
“Rob has also worked in both shops, setting counters, serving customers and preparing kitchen ready products. He shows great promise with his attention to detail and we were very pleased with his innovation for Young Butcher of the Year.
“We have tried the product in both shops and it has sold extremely well, and customers have provided some marvellous feedback. We are extremely pleased with how Rob has progressed since starting and we see a very bright future for a young man who takes a lot of pride and pleasure in his work -a real future star!”
Rob himself commented: “I am very pleased to have been asked to develop products, particularly for the Smithfield Star Awards, I feel that I have really settled into the job and that I have found a craft that I have a great deal of passion for.”
Sponsor, the Institute of Meat, will give Rob 1 year’s free membership, entitling him to join an important asset to the meat industry who’s aim is to help educate and promote young butchers. He also receives a Diamond Award framed certificate, a wooden ‘meat’ chopping board, steak knife and Q Guild apron.
For the first time this year, the revamped Smithfield ‘Star’ Awards had a brand-new star rating system through which 3***, 2** or 1* certificates were awarded to products achieving a set standard. Diamond awards are then achieved by pitching all the 3*** products against each other to find the ‘Category Champion’.
In fact, Turnbull’s Butchers achieved four product awards in total, including two further 3*** and a category finalist*. The other awards were:
|Innovative Sausage||Northumbrian Venison Sausage*||3***|
|Naked Steak||8oz Sirloin Steak||3***|
|Traditional Sausage||Northumberland Sausage||2*|
From 220 individual products entered from 29 Q Guild butchers across the length and breadth of the country, a total of 73 achieved 3***, 52 2** and 44 1*, They were judged blind by an independent panel of food and meat sector experts headed up by Institute of Meat Chief Executive Keith Fisher
Butchers Q Guild General Manager Claire Holland said: “These awards are a great way of showcasing our members and their achievements. They work really hard to develop outstanding products and to keep up with consumer trends therefore to have it topped off with an industry judged accolade is the icing on the cake, for which they should be very proud.”
Lishman’s Butchers in Ilkley, West Yorkshire, were crowned the overall 2020 Smithfield ‘Star’ Awards supreme champion with their Chilli Cheese Dogs, first chosen as the best product in the Innovative Sausage category.
Smithfield ‘Star’ Award sponsors were Lucas Ingredients, Dalziel, Innovative Food Ingredients, British Charcuterie Live, Weddel Swift, Verstegen, Taste of Game, Scobie & Junor and Institute of Meat.