Introducing Simon Taylor

With the World Butchers’ Challenge just over six months away, the British Beefeaters are sharpening their cleavers and getting ready to make an impact in Belfast next March. 

But who will be flying the Union Jack and taking on the 11 other teams from across the globe?

Meat Trades Journal had a catch-up with one of the new additions to the team this year, Simon Taylor of Surrey Hills Butchers in Oxshott, who is hoping his unique flair will help Team GB lift the trophy for the first time.

What inspired you to become a butcher?

The long and short of it, money. I was a young 13-year-old when I saw my local butcher’s shop was looking for a wash-up boy. I was thrown into a world I knew nothing about and I loved it from day one.

How long have you been butchering for?

Since I was 13, so 22 years.

Where was your first butchery job?

My local butcher’s shop in West End, Woking, Surrey.

Who is your butchery idol?

Marco Pierre White has always been my idol. Not many people know he worked in a butcher’s – when I met him, he told me it was the hardest job he had ever done. Some people see his confidence as arrogance, I see a man passionate and knowledgeable about food – a powerful combination.  

Have you got a butchery protégé?

I am very lucky to have two fantastic young butchers, Oliver Goss and Alfie Clarke. Both have breezed through Meat Ipswich and are now applying for Level 3. In my mind, both show a lot of the skills needed to do great things in the future.

Beef, lamb, pork or chicken?

Tough question. I honestly enjoy working across all species. Today I will single out pork because of its versatility; it can be cut into primals in seconds, can be made into an array of value-added products and, of course, can always be made into sausages – the ultimate utility cut.

What is your dream goal to achieve in the butchery industry?

I would love to be a main player in the butchery revolution we are seeing right now or find a way on to TV to promote our trade. If I can’t be the face, I would love to support someone in these dreams. I believe we are every bit as equipped as a TV chef to educate and inspire the public.

What unique quality are you going to bring to the World Butchers’ Challenge?

I like to think I’ll bring a little flair to the games; I have a certain style, which is more than just knife on block.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

I have to say I am in the highlight of my career right now, To be honest I only fully found out about the World Butchers’ Challenge after the heats for the 2016 competition and, ever since, have been waiting for my chance. I am thrilled that our trade has already elevated to a point where we can compete on a global scale.   

What is your favourite added-value product to make?

I love making stir-fries; the big chef knife comes out and gets some speed on it, slicing.

If you weren’t a butcher, what would you be?

Got to go with chef here. Throughout my life there has always been something linking me with good food.

What is the most unusual meat you’ve eaten?

From crocodile to zebra – you name it, I’ve eaten it. Perhaps the cuts I’m more proud of trying are things like tripe and brawn.

What advice would you give to young people wanting to get into the industry?

Couldn’t advise it more. This is the time to get into our industry and, to do so, just ask. Google local shops and go and show yourself, prove your worth. The way our trade is going, we are constantly looking for new recruits. And if you can’t get into a butcher’s then try some cheffing work, as this will aid you greatly in the modern-day shop.

Who is going to be your biggest competition in the World Butchers’ Challenge?

I think you have to give it to France; they are the reigning champions and won for a reason. I won’t deny that Australia and New Zealand look strong, but make no mistake, we are not going to this competition to just make up the numbers.  

What is the best thing about being a butcher?

For me, working with food and people. I still believe in the power of food and the community feel it can have – be it a roast dinner or BBQ, getting together with people over good food can mend many things.

Taylor’s journey can be followed on Instagram: @simonthebutch, Twitter: @simonthebutch and Facebook: Surrey Hills Butchers.  

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