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Tattooed Butcher

8 July 2022

James Smith, aka the Tattooed Butcher, has over a decade of experience as an award-winning butcher and passionate foodie. Here he shares some sharp staples for food preparation, his go-to meals to really impress, and plenty more meaty treats… Interview Josie Steenhart

Firstly, nothing to do with food, but how many tattoos do you have, and when/where/what was your first?

Haha this is a good one, I've got both arms completely covered, both hands, one of my legs, my whole chest and ribs... with more to come. My first was actually my left shoulder when I was 16, which is now covered up.

You’re a member of the NZ Sharp Blacks, what exactly is that, what’s the selection process, and where has it taken you?

Yeah so the NZ Sharp Blacks are our national butchery team, we compete every two years against countries from all over the world. There are currently 16 countries competing and the next competition is held in Sacramento in October. I’ve been a member of the team since 2019 but sadly due to covid I haven't got to travel or compete so I am really looking forward to this year.

As far as the selection process, they decide based on experience, competition history and how well you will fit the team. I myself have a really good track record with comps, competing in over 16 competitions around New Zealand and Australia and have been crowned Upper North Butcher of the Year three times, NZ Butcher of the Year in 2020 and placed third in the international Butcher Wars in Sydney the last two years with a field of 30 butchers from 10 different countries, along with a wide range of product awards.

What are some favourite products/cuts to work with at the moment, and some easy/simple ways to use them?

I'm a big fan of low and slow BBQ but also like using the more unknown cuts. For me pork is a great protein with just the right amount of fat and flavour and I usually tend to cook over coals or wood to add that extra bit of flavour.

What’s your go-to dish when you really want to impress?

I always tend to go for a smoked brisket or reverse seared wagyu tomahawk.

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What is a less popular cut/product you think deserves much more appreciation?

I think lamb necks, they are slowly becoming more popular now but they make amazing pulled lamb when cooked for long periods of time.

What are some things to look out for when selecting meat?

Good marbling throughout your beef and lamb and in your pork, good fat coverage!

What are some of the most common mistakes people make when preparing/cooking meat at home?

Letting your red meat and pork come to room temperature before cooking, and not ensuring you rest your meat before slicing and serving.

A favourite/memorable dish or product you’ve had in the South Island?

Big fan of Provenance lamb from Otago, best lamb in the country in my mind! Along with Whitehart Kurobuta pork, that stuff is amazing.

What can we expect to see from you at The Food Show?

This year I’ll be putting on a sausage masterclass! I'll be teaching you the best cuts to make sausages with, teaching you the process, ingredients and making everything on stage so come down and check it all out.

See James Smith at The Christchurch Food Show, August 19-21, Christchurch Arena.

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